Ørsted and the Future of Green Energy
The Netherlands is a small country, which often leads to it being overlooked in the power it has to drive change and innovation around climate change and global challenges. The Netherlands is home to multiple, highly active, energy companies and innovations in green energy. Multiple solutions for renewable energy have been developed here and more are being developed everyday with the help of Dutch and international companies. These solutions are often adopted by larger countries around the world, allowing the Netherlands to contribute beyond its size to solutions for the climate and energy problems we face today. One such international company, Ørsted, based in Denmark with a Benelux office in The Hague, is helping the Netherlands drive innovation across green energy sectors. We were lucky enough to sit down with Steven Engels, General Manager Benelux at Ørsted who has shared his views about the future of green energy, green energy opportunities in The Hague, and his personal journey so far.
Reaching 2050 Twenty Years Early
By 2050 the Netherlands has set ambitious targets to reduce greenhouse emissions by 95% compared to its 1990 numbers. The Hague raised that bar even higher by wanting to achieve a net-zero carbon footprint ahead of the whole of the Netherlands. According to Steven “ if we want to achieve the 2050 targets, an enormous amount of renewable power will be required. For the Netherlands, that means there's a huge potential for offshore wind because the surface of the seabed is relatively large compared to the size of the country”. He stresses the importance of offshore wind infrastructure to be built. This is where Ørsted plays one of the leading roles. According to the Harvard Business Review in 2019, Ørsted is one of the top 20 companies with the most drastic transformations over the previous decade. The company switched to renewables early on, which allowed Ørsted to be ahead of the game and gain experience in the new field of green energy, making them the market leader in offshore wind today. In the next 5 years with the ambitions in the Netherlands for offshore wind, Ørsted hopes to win more project tenders and grow their business in green hydrogen. Steven believes that “green hydrogen will be very relevant, but also very complementary to offshore wind.”
The biggest challenge and opportunity
According to Steven there is a lot of interest from international and local developers to actually develop green energy projects. Due to relatively low rates, the time to invest is now. “And we are definitely ready to invest,” added Steven. The only challenge at the moment is the lack of a framework to accelerate the energy transition and to achieve 2030 targets. Once those decisions on the additional offshore wind and green hydrogen are made, more opportunities will open up to meet the 2050 ambitions. What does help Ørsted to do business in the Netherlands is the overall transparency of the Dutch government and the direction they provided by rolling out of the clear roadmap of 11 gigawatts. Steven hopes that a very similar approach will be applied to hydrogen as well. Alongside transparency and improved risk perceptions, innovation in offshore wind energy, such as growing size of turbines, is one of the key drivers for cost reductions.
A Personal Journey with Ørsted
Steven joined Ørsted nine years ago, coming from a management consulting background with McKinsey, where he was a part of the electric power and natural gas practice. With a lot of business knowledge and experience in offshore wind, Steven first joined the strategy team, then moved on to several other roles. His big game changer came in 2013 with the energy agreement in the Netherlands. This is when he started flying in and out from Copenhagen to develop the Dutch market. In 2015 he got the mandate to set up the office in the Netherlands. Their first 752 MW offshore wind project in the Netherlands, with an operations and maintenance base located in Vlissingen, immediately became the biggest wind project in the Netherlands and the second biggest operational wind farm in the world.
After this milestone Steven is ready for his next challenge. His next goal is to replicate his success in offshore wind in hydrogen projects. After a decade spent building offshore wind, culminating in the official opening in Vlissingen in September this year, his sights are set on the next phase of green energy, “so we can have another inauguration in a couple of years on a hydrogen project,” he proudly added.
Living and Working in The Hague
Steven, who now lives in Belgium, spent five years in The Hague and comes back frequently to visit the office here on a weekly basis. “Living in The Hague has been absolutely fantastic. I think The Hague is a very livable city,” noted Steven. The highlights of his stay in The Hague were the good times with his family on the beach or biking around. He touted the cycling infrastructure and the ease of life. Being able to have a beer or a coffee at a pavilion by the beach was just a cherry on top of the cake. As he mentioned, “I always like to come back, which I will again in the future.”
Advice for Companies in Green Energy
His advice to energy companies is “to become more green”. He emphasizes the enormous challenge we are facing, their complexity and the colossal scale. He actually celebrates the energy transition, because it gives us a chance to fix things and together make an impact on climate change. He advises companies to go in with both feet because of the size of the challenge we are all facing. Steven knows there is room for more than just Ørsted and that for the space to succeed, there needs to be more companies working together towards a shared goal. “I definitely welcome companies with a similar focus who also pull the same rope,” added Steven. A warm and welcoming call to join the green energy landscape.