Marjan van Loon, CEO Shell the Netherlands at Royal Dutch Shell

Why energy transition needs to be something that belongs to us all

As one of the leading energy companies in the world, Shell is a key player in energy supply. Therefore, Shell has an important role in the energy transition. Marjan van Loon, CEO Shell the Netherlands, about the road to success.

A big hobby of mine is sailing: enjoying nature, playing with the wind and staying on course. It’s a sport in which you depend not only on your sailing companions, but also on the water and wind. In that respect it’s also a bit like the energy transition: it will only succeed if everyone pulls together, and it, too, depends on the right blend of nature’s forces, human ingenuity and the right technology.

Sailing and energy transition are both team sports

On the water, the trick is to accelerate by responding cleverly to the currents and the wind. Steering the correct course is crucial, and setting out clear rules with others means you can sail even tighter to the wind. Things are no different when it comes to the energy transition. Sailing and energy transition are both team sports.

From wind to hydrogen to road transport

For a long time, our energy system has been more or less straightforward, but now the time has come for us to change course.

Electricity, heat and mobility are no longer exclusively dependent on fossil fuels. Increasingly, we will harness energy from different sources, such as from wind power on all but the stillest of days, or from solar power when the sun is shining. This green power can then be used to produce green hydrogen as an energy carrier for road transport and industry.

But what do you do when there’s no wind or when it’s cloudy? And what do you do if you generate more electricity than is needed? To prevent us from continually reverting to fossil fuels at such times, it is important that we design an energy system that takes shortages and surpluses into account. Whether we call it a hybrid system or system integration, it’s essential that rather than simply focusing on a single solution, we look into a range of interconnectable solutions. This will allow us to create a system that is as reliable, as affordable and as safe as the old one.

One example of such a solution is the linking of wind energy to hydrogen. Wind energy can be converted into electricity for immediate use. This means that there is a direct link between the wind turbine at sea and, say, the electric vehicle at the charging point.

However, this wind power can also be used to produce green hydrogen. This turns hydrogen into a liquid battery for the times when there is a lot more power being generated by the wind than we are using. Conversely, hydrogen can be converted into electricity when there is no wind. This allows us to create a buffer.

Why working together is so important

The shortest route is not necessarily the fastest one. As long as we all remain on our own islands and set up our own energy projects, we won’t make any progress. The strength of this type of projects lies in the fact that it integrates different parts of the energy system. Only then can we really make progress with the energy transition. Only then will we be able to transform the Netherlands. That is something that demands collaboration — collaboration between different companies in the energy sector, collaboration between private business and government, and collaboration with the user at home, on the road or in the factory. Together we can set up projects that are sector-wide, enabling us to find and implement solutions that deal with a fluctuating energy supply.

Joint ambitions

Although all of this makes a lot of sense, what will these integrated projects look like, and what kind of collaborative partnerships will we need to realise them? We have already taken a number of steps forward with our partners.

Recently, Shell the Netherlands announced that it had joined forces with Eneco for the Hollandse Kust Noord offshore wind farm. We want to harness some of this wind power to produce green hydrogen in the port of Rotterdam. We shall also be examining the possibility of developing innovative techniques that might help accelerate the energy transition, the ultimate goal being cleaner road transport. In time, 2,300 trucks could run on Shell’s green hydrogen. Together with other organisations, including the Port of Rotterdam Authority, we aim to build a new green supply chain; we want to use wind to produce green hydrogen for cleaner road transport.

Also, in February, Shell the Netherlands announced project NortH2. As part of a consortium with Gasunie and Groningen Seaports, Shell Nederland announced plans for the largest hydrogen project in Northwest Europe. NortH2 focuses on the production of green hydrogen using electricity generated by a mega offshore wind farm.

These ambitions demonstrate that we can work with our partners to set up projects that will have a major impact on the Dutch energy system.

In other words, with the energy transition it is important to get everyone on board and agree on which course to follow. While one person is at the helm, the other can trim the sails and you’ll reach your new destination more quickly. Tomorrow’s energy landscape begins today. Let’s make headway together.

Marjan van Loon
CEO Shell the Netherlands at Royal Dutch Shell


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