Energy transition as challenge and opportunity
To keep the global temperature rise well below 2°C and aim for 1.5°C while ensuring energy security, we need to make radical, and rapid changes to our energy system. The survey conducted by the Energy Transition Route shows that the Netherlands has a strong knowledge base that includes parties from the important areas of technology, society, economy and law. Joining these forces and working together to take the required integrated approach will enable the Netherlands to take its place among the world’s leaders in the energy transition. This also provides an opportunity to build a strong green knowledge-based economy. In doing so, we will create new jobs in the sustainable energy sector and other sectors, such as high-tech systems and materials, ICT and services, and we will also strengthen our export position.
Integrated, ambitious approach
The Netherlands has taken important steps in recent years towards achieving a sustainable energy system. Sustainable energy research and development takes place in a large number of technical and non-technical disciplines and Dutch energy science has acquired a leading position in several areas. This is vitally important if we are to achieve a successful transition and make the most of the economic opportunities presented, and we need to nurture and further expand this leading position. Even so, it is not enough: the urgency and complexity of the transition and increasing international competition imply that much more is needed, both in terms of quality and quantity. For example, even economically attractive technical solutions are not automatically implemented at a large scale and even a carefully developed policy incentive does not automatically result in market success for sustainable energy technologies.
The game changer for a successful transition to a sustainable and secure energy system is an integrated approach to technical, social, economic, legal and spatial challenges that allows excellent building blocks to be implemented quickly and on a large scale.
The core elements are: excellent building blocks, an integrated approach and broad support. This means that developments need to take place in a coherent, structured fashion. This requires cooperation between the humanities, social and behavioural sciences and the natural sciences; the government, knowledge institutes, the business community and non-governmental organisations; and between various economic sectors. The urgency, complexity and increasing competition also imply that a higher ambition level is required in terms of energy innovation if the Netherlands is to achieve optimum economic benefit from the opportunities that the global transition presents. The necessary resources are quantified in the chapter ‘Required investments’.
The Dutch National Research Agenda (NWA) Energy Transition Route does not stand alone. First of all, it is of course based on the energy-related NWA questions. It is also consistent with Mission Innovation: Accelerating the Clean Energy Revolution1 , an initiative taken by countries that aim to accelerate the transition and that made agreements at the COP21 Paris climate conference to do just that. The route also builds on the Council for the Environment and Infrastructure (Rli) report A Prosperous Nation without CO2 . Furthermore, it provides essential input for development of the energy report Transition to Sustainable published in January 2016 and the corresponding Energy Dialogue. This route therefore touches on the core of the Dutch energy and climate policy. The Energy Transition Route is also strongly related to many other routes, in particular to Materials, Circular Economy and Resource Efficiency, Sustainable Production of Safe and Healthy Food, Smart Liveable Cities, Environmental Quality, Resilient and Meaningful Societies, Smart Industry, Logistics and Transportation, the Blue Route and Responsible Use of Big Data.
NWA route for an integrated approach to the energy transition
This route describes ten important and urgent Challenges that need to be addressed in long-term programming in close collaboration between public and private parties. Although the Challenges are by nature multidisciplinary, it is crucial that they are also addressed in mutual dependence. If it is to be successful, such a programme must include all aspects, from basic research to development, demonstration and implementation, and including ‘living labs’. Only then can pioneering innovations find their way into the public domain and the market, quickly and on a large scale, and truly accelerate the energy transition. And only then can the Netherlands seize the economic opportunities available in this highly competitive international sector. This route description does not pretend to provide a comprehensive overview of all the challenges associated with the energy transition, nor does it suggest that the transition will end in 2050. What it does do is describe solutions that can make a substantial contribution to the transition in the period up to 2050. The reason for this is the urgency (as mentioned above) to achieve results in the transition. Options that are expected only to contribute in the longer term are not described explicitly in the challenges, but should be included in the final research portfolio.
The ten challenges were developed through an intensive process of surveying, prioritising, integrating and formulating; a multidisciplinary process in which over 200 experts were involved with a wide range of backgrounds who together covered the whole of the spectrum required. The energy transition ‘playing field’ was outlined to enable a structured discussion in the preliminary stage (see above). To the right are the energy functions as defined in the Rli report mentioned above. To the left are the energy supply options in as far as they are consistent with the transition objectives. In the centre are the elements required to link the supply options and the functions in the transition process and in the integrated sustainable energy system. All ten Challenges link different sources and energy functions and make use of several technical and non-technical elements from the central part of the playing field. For all the Challenges, the connection to the underlying NWA questions is given.
Total public investment in energy research and innovation in the Netherlands (excluding deployment subsidies such as the Sustainable Energy Incentive Scheme (SDE+)) currently amounts to about 250 million euros a year, divided roughly 50/50 between academic research and applied research and technology development. This investment needs to be doubled to at least 500 million euros a year if the ambitions described in this Energy Transition Route are to be realised, as shown by the quantification given for each challenge. Such a doubling is in line with the agreements made by the signatories to Mission Innovation (see ‘Context). The resources required for each challenge vary widely. Strong international competition and large export opportunities as well as the complexity of Challenges in some cases demand extra ambitions and resources.