WindDay 2022: major ambitions, substantial challenges
WindDay 2022 brings wind energy sector together to discuss energy transition
The switch from fossil fuels to green energy will need to be greater and take place even faster than originally thought. How will the sector tackle this challenge and which obstacles stand in their way? These were the main points of discussion among the hundreds of professionals attending the WindDay in IJmuiden on June 16, which was co-organised and hosted by AYOP. A report on an event where all eyes were focused on wind at sea. And reactions of visitors.
Dutch Minister for Climate and Energy Policy Rob Jetten was having a wind-related week. The day before the event he’d been in Poland for an international conference, and now he was in IJmuiden for WindDay 2022. And that was fine by him, as the minster made clear in his keynote speech to an audience of over 500 participants: “Without you it will be impossible for the government to reach its climate targets. We are working hard to realise a significant transition, and I believe that the North Sea is the ideal location to give form to and help realise our ambitions in terms of wind energy.”
This would not be the only time that speakers would mention the magnitude of the challenge ahead during WindDay 2022. They recognised the ‘enormous steps’ that need to be taken to unravel this ‘incredibly complex puzzle’ and the fact that this can only be achieved by working together’.
Which of course brings us to the question of how, which was the main topic of conversation between the hundreds of professionals gathered in the Felison Cruise Terminal in IJmuiden. Their discussions were facilitated by a strong interactive programme led by chair Harm Edens, who moderated the day in a cheerful yet critical way.
The welcome speech was given by Hans Timmers, chair of the Netherlands WindEnergy Association (NWEA), which co-organised the day. Timmers emphasised the importance of taking responsibility. “We have now become such a large sector in our own right that we too are responsible for our environment. This in turn requires a substantial change in our behaviour … And that’s something we must discuss together.” The need to do things ‘together’ has never been more crucial, added Timmers, who also stressed the necessity to take a long-term perspective when it comes to the development of wind energy. “Look forward to what we will require in 2050 and then work backwards to see what we must start doing now to achieve that.”
A share in a wind farm at sea
Next on the stage after Timmers was Sylvia Boer, director of the Amsterdam IJmuiden Offshore Ports (AYOP) network association which co-organised and hosted WindDay. Boer announced an innovative action by AYOP which involved them replacing the 500-plus traditional conference goodie bags that would have been distributed with a €10,000 investment in a part of the Meewind wind farm at sea. Meewind commercial director Jurjen Algra was pleased to accept the cheque.
North Sea as power station
The following speaker was Minister Rob Jetten who gave his keynote on the Dutch government’s major ambitions in the field of climate and energy. “Our goal is to ensure that the Netherlands is climate-neutral by 2050. To achieve this, we will need to significantly accelerate the energy transition in the coming years. That includes reducing our CO2 emissions by 60 percent in 2030 and wind energy becoming the largest source of power.”
Jetten called the North Sea the future ‘power station of the Netherlands’. But don’t we run the risk of the North Sea becoming too full? “I truly believe in a win-win situation,” said Jetten. “I think we can also strengthen the natural environment around wind parks and take steps towards food production at sea. There are enormous opportunities in this regard.”
While Jetten focused on ambitions, Edward Stigter, regional minister for climate & energy for the province of North Holland, explored some of the obstacles in their way. Examples included the shortage in both the raw materials needed to build windmills and the personnel to make and install them. Other issues of concern are biodiversity, the support of residents and the lack of space at sea and, even more so, on land.
But the biggest headache according to Stigter is congestion on the grid where a reduced capacity to receive generated power could see the Netherlands failing to attain its climate goals. “This cannot be allowed to happen,” he said in an appeal to the audience. “We must speed up the installation of the required infrastructure and be prepared to take unorthodox measures to tackle this problem.”
Ports and the energy transition
After a pleasant coffee break in the summer sun, it was time for Sylvia Boer to lead the first debate among three directors from North Holland ports and the business development manager of Den Helder Airport. Are they ready for the energy transition?
Only if the ports share their infrastructure, answered Peter van de Meerakker from Port of IJmuiden. “There’s simply not enough space for us all to have our own piers and maintenance facilities.” Dorine Bosman from Port of Amsterdam described the completion of the new Energy Port as a crucial factor for the installation of wind farms. “I’d rather see this finished yesterday than today.”
Jacoba Bolderheij from Port of Den Helder underlined the importance of hydrogen in the energy mix: “Without it, we won’t succeed.” Nick Waterdrinker from Den Helder Airport added that the time was right to make concrete agreements on what should be done to achieve the ambitions by 2050: “I would really like the ‘how’ to be more clearly defined.”
Tight roadmap equals higher costs
A second debate saw experts from seven of the major market players focus on the challenges of the upcoming exponential growth, including how to keep things profitable. This issue is of some concern to Renske Ytsma from energy company RWE: “Because the government has provided us with such a tight roadmap, I’m concerned that our expenses will be higher than they need to be as we have to comply with the planning regardless of cost.”
Another key factor is the standardisation of wind turbines. A good idea, according to some, because it will provide the room for manoeuvre to achieve the lofty ambitions. Vattenfall’s Erik Hiensch, on the other hand, felt that aspects such as a maximum tip height will make little difference. “We operate in an international market, so local regulations will only have a minor effect.” In contrast, Michel Kurstjens from Sif Netherlands stated his conviction that standardisation could make the Netherlands a leader in the international market in this field, which earned him some muted applause from the audience.
After lunch, the attendants took their place at round tables in the reception hall of the terminal, where hosts moderated a debate on a specific theme in wind energy. This ranged from the end-of-life processing of wind turbines by HorYzon, offshore systems integration as proposed by TNO, and Vattenfall explaining the current state of affairs with the installation of the Hollandse Kust Zuid wind farm.
Hydrogen; the holy grail?
The participants then returned to the big hall for a talk show on another urgent matter: ‘Is hydrogen the holy grail?’ Harm Edens posed the question directly to five speakers. While Jan Jacob van Dijk from the Climate Agreement implementation board was rather cautious, saying that hydrogen will ‘help the energy transition’, the other four speakers gave a clear ‘yes’.
“However,” said Dorine Bosman of Port of Amsterdam, “everyone is waiting for someone else to make a move, and that doesn’t work. Companies think that they are only a small link in the chain and they can’t really change anything. This is a chicken & egg dilemma that we still have to break through.” During the debate, it became clear that the risk of wholeheartedly investing in hydrogen remains too great a challenge for many companies.
So, what would it take to make real progress with hydrogen? A willingness from companies to step over their own shadow and start collaborations with others to make the risks foreseeable, according to Lex de Groot of Neptune Energy: “Many parallel activities are already ongoing. We need someone to come forward and tie all these loose ends together into a fine bow.”
From crisis to shared ideals
Political scientist Maarten Hajer closed the day with an inspirational speech that suggested telling a different story about the energy transition. He noticed that we often speak of a ‘crisis’ we must overcome. Maarten suggested instead talking about shared ideals for the future – otherwise our mission doesn’t stand a chance in his opinion.
Before the guests attended the networking social and prepared themselves for the offshore excursions in IJmuiden and Den Helder the next day, Harm Edens shared some wise words in conclusion: “The time for dallying is over. Shall we agree to that at least? If we want to achieve the energy transition within the determined timeframe, waiting could end up costing us a great deal of time.”
Mike Welling, business developer at Z-Bridge
“I work in the supply chain for wind at sea as Z-Bridge facilitates offshore transfers of both people and cargo. Today, I was mainly curious about the ambitions of the government, their concrete actions and what role we could play in this regard. That is why the expert debate was especially interesting to me as it zoomed into what the future might look like in concrete terms.”
Wouter Boot, construction engineer at Vattenfall
“I work just around the corner, in the port of IJmuiden, helping to build Hollandse Kust Zuid. The WindDay was an ideal event for me therefore and much busier than I expected. I think that shows how we are becoming more relevant as a sector. I was mainly interested in hearing about new technologies such as blade recycling. It was also a great opportunity to present ourselves in the hall as Vattenfall and talk to people directly.”
Kim Bischot, onshore wind energy adviser at the Netherlands Enterprise Agency (RVO)
“In my work, it’s important to meet with developers, provinces and municipalities to learn how we can best provide them with advice. By bringing everyone together WindDay offered a great opportunity in this respect. For me today has been mostly about networking. I only started with RVO two years ago – at the height of the pandemic – and enjoy finally putting faces to the names I have been in contact with all this time.”