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Catalyst in the energy transition

The energy transition is in full swing: support and guidance from the government are key factors for success. Spurred on by the realisation that we really cannot wait any longer to take drastic measures, the business community, the government and consumers are all busy working on the energy transition.

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What impact does this have on the business community, society and the government and what role does Boer & Croon see for itself in this respect? An interview with Cees den Ouden and Adriaan Swaak, respectively Associate Partner with a wealth of experience in the energy sector, and Manager Transformation & Program Management at Boer & Croon.

Risky investments

Cees, what are your experiences with the energy transition?
Cees: "I've been working in the energy sector for a large part of my life. I come from Pernis, so I grew up with oil and refineries. After having worked for almost 10 years as a chartered accountant at PWC, I became CFO at Argos Oil, an all-round oil company. We were one of the trailblazers for alternative energy projects in Western Europe: we set up the first biodiesel plant in the Botlek, among other things."
"What I learned from that is that energy transition projects involving new technology - from a commercial perspective - are high-risk investments. As a trailblazer, it is therefore incredibly important to first of all secure political support."
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Cees den Ouden

Making energy sources sustainable

How would you define the energy transition?
Cees: "For me, the energy transition is the transition to a zero-emission era. Obviously, that takes time and it has to be done with due care. In Germany and Belgium, gas is being used as an interim solution for the energy transition, the cleanest conventional energy source. In the Netherlands, this is a more sensitive issue. But anyway, everyone agrees that we urgently need to get serious about making our energy production more sustainable."

"The first reports from Glasgow are hopeful, but there are also countries that, in terms of development, are at the level that the Netherlands was in the 1960s, and back then, we were far from being clean. We have to get them on board, and we will have to do our bit to support them."

A whole host of good thiings

What do you see as the most important factors when it comes to making this energy transition a success
Cees: "There needs to be more support from government authorities. The business community is willing, also spurred on by public opinion, but there simply has to be more guidance across the board. As in, support industry (particularly medium-sized and smaller businesses) through subsidies in order to finance the transition, but at the same time introduce or expand 'punitive measures,' such as CO2 levies, in cases where not enough effort is shown."

"And, of course, households must also be helped, so that people can buy solar panels and insulate their homes. Cleaner cars are a part of this too, even though we won't all be able to switch to electric cars at the same time, because that would mean that the lights would turn off at night. You first have to look at where you can make quick wins."

"At the moment, with the help of the government, hydrogen is being looked at very seriously. I myself am involved in the Porthos project that is aimed at storing CO2 in empty gas fields in the North Sea. A whole host of good things are already happening, but we could do with stepping up a gear, because what's hanging over us is, of course, very disconcerting."

Cleaner production processes

Those regulations from the government are on the way. In which sectors will these have the most impact?
The oil and gas industry is first, followed by the chemical industry. The chemical industry remains important, although we can definitely make sure that the production processes are made cleaner. Then there's the transport sector. If you look at container transport and other logistics services, you can see that logistics processes can be integrated with each other much better.

Problematic issues per sector

How can Boer & Croon help with the energy transition?
Adriaan: "We carry out assignments for network operators, energy producers as well as companies that build the infrastructure for energy projects. The problems vary per sector. When it comes to network operators, we are seeing a great demand for process optimisation and experienced project managers. A tremendous amount of work has to be done with a limited number of staff. This adds to the challenge of finding enough skilled technical staff to expand the electricity grid."

New business models

"We also help energy producers to adopt new business models. Whereas in the past, the focus was on supplying electricity and gas as efficiently as possible, this is now shifting towards streamlining existing customer interactions to save on costs on the one hand, and on the other, developing new services to be closer to the customer and to increase revenue."

"The driving force behind this is the fact that the gas and electricity market is becoming increasingly difficult to predict due to the increased use of renewable energy. Consumers also want to become more sustainable, however, they do not always have the financial scope or the know-how to do this themselves. This creates opportunities that energy producers can capitalise on."

"Last but not least, we work for companies that provide infrastructure for the energy sector, such as transformers, batteries, solar farms and generators. This is where we are increasingly seeing a shift from a product-driven business model to 'Energy-as-a-Service' business models where the hardware itself is no longer the product, but it's actually the output in the form of electricity that is sold."

"For the client, a fine opportunity to make the energy supply more sustainable without any pressure on the balance sheet, and for the producer, the chance to enter into a long-term relationship with the client. Boer & Croon can also support entrepreneurs in industry and logistics in making investment decisions related to the energy transition."