Remco de Boer 

Researcher, publicist and creator of podcast ‘Studio Energie’

1. You have been following the Dutch energy policy closely for years and publish a lot about the energy transition, in recent years also about hydrogen. What do you notice in Dutch energy policy?

This policy is strongly influenced by developments which are not very helpful to say the least. We increase our goals, but at the same time we do not seem willing to dedicate the few resources we have to achieve these goals. On the contrary even. All solutions also have disadvantages, but we hardly seem willing to accept them anymore. Disadvantages do not fit in with the ideal picture that the environmental movement –for decades the only voice in the desert to fight the cause – has outlined. Their ideal image, necessary to get things moving, does not correspond to reality. The success of the environmental movement is that society has now embraced that image and things are moving. But at the same time, the tragedy is that the pursuit of purity, part of that ideal image, slows down rather than accelerates the transition. Almost everyone – politics and the media at the forefront – is into 'activism', but hardly anyone dares to take responsibility for what is practically needed, for the disadvantages. However, without dirty hands, there will be no quick transition to cleaner energy.

2. How do you view the development of a hydrogen economy? In your opinion, what is essential??

It is essential that you have an appealing, but at the same time realistic story. From the beginning. An argument about the 'why', but also about the 'how'. It is tempting to paint a spectacular view into the future full of only benefits. The famous 'Free Beer and Always Nice Weather' – splendid. But at the end of the day, you will be presented with a bill and you need to be able to afford it. Once it becomes clear what is needed for this hydrogen economy – and especially what the disadvantages will be in the coming years – it can quickly go downhill in the hyped-up media reports that characterizes our current media democracy. The ease with which we get rid of the bad along with the good nowadays, should be of concern to everyone working on energy and climate policy. Tell the honest story, tell the whole story, and of course, place different accents depending on the phase of development.


Remco de Boer

3. Critical notes, advice and best practices: what do you think of the role and approach of the industry in the energy transition, specifically around hydrogen?

The industry has also fully jumped on the hydrogen cart. One could easily wallpaper a whole house with all the press releases that have appeared in recent years about all the beautiful industry hydrogen plans. Anyone who does not know any better would think that hydrogen economy is already a fact. A distorted picture. What reinforces this hype – because that is what it is – is the cooperation between industry and environmental organizations, such as in the Hydrogen Coalition. One big happy family, it seems. But where the environmental movement champions 'hydrogen' with 'green', the industry means 'we need blue hydrogen first for a very long time'. You can already see the impending controversy coming from miles away. It is therefore up to industry to constantly look closely at whether it can deliver on the promises – especially the implicit ones. If not, they should not make these promises.

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