Chairman Deltalinqs and Rotterdam Port Promotion Council
1. As chairman of Deltalinqs, representing over 700 companies in the Rotterdam port and industrial area, how do you hope to fulfil this role in relation to the energy transition and the Dutch climate goals?
Transforming the Dutch industry to meet the climate targets is – I think – the biggest transition since the Industrial Revolution. The Rotterdam port and industrial complex, responsible for almost 90% of the total CO2 emissions in Rotterdam, has an important role to play in this transition. The discussion is not whether we are going to do it, but how we are going to do it. In order to achieve the change, everything must come together: cooperation between companies, support from our stakeholders, and also direction and support from the government. I see this as an important task for me. After all, as chairman of Deltalinqs, you are one of the most important representatives of the largest port in Europe. The companies are highly motivated. A lot of initiatives have already been started, but it is still unclear in a number of areas (e.g. in the construction of new energy infrastructure) what they can count on and what is expected of the companies. That is why the government should now quickly take control and map out the route with us: who does what, when, for how much and with whom. I am optimistic and hopeful that the energy transition in the largest port of Europe will succeed. The transition can, in addition to climate benefits, also bring us a lot of innovation and competitive advantage. As chairman, I like working hard to make this possible. If it was easy, I wouldn't have chosen it.
2. The stakes are high in the port of Rotterdam. What does it take to meet all the requirements?
The Rotterdam port and industrial complex is by far the largest industrial cluster in the Netherlands. Indeed, there is a lot at stake: almost 400.000 direct and indirect jobs and more than 6% of our GDP. Companies are often highly dependent on each other. In order to keep the port industrial complex future-proof and ultimately to make the Netherlands climate neutral, substantial investments are needed. The risks are corresponding. In a transition of this magnitude, in which new technologies will be used and where there are large interdependencies, a lot can go wrong. That is why cooperation is very important. Between companies, but of course also between public and private partners. We cannot do this without the government. Fortunately, this cooperation and support is there, but it needs to be stepped up further. We need to help each other to get this big operation done; we have to do it together. These are investments of great social importance; after all, this is about preserving our future prosperity. Finally, there are a number of other issues that need to be resolved. Think of the nitrogen impediment that is now complicating new investments and sustainability, the shortage of technically skilled personnel and the social transition that must be experienced. If we do not regulate this properly, the energy transition will slow down. In fact, it could become the showstopper.
3. Does the energy transition also offer opportunities for Rotterdam's industry, and what does it take to capitalize on those opportunities?
Absolutely. As I said, the impact of the energy transition is similar to the industrial revolution in the nineteenth century. As a result of the transition, but also due to further digitization, the labor market in the port and industrial area is changing. Jobs will disappear, existing jobs will change and new jobs and businesses will be created. This could create 10 to 15 thousand new jobs in the Rotterdam port area. This requires targeted support from the government, as well as regulations that make it possible for companies to make regional agreements with (vocational) educational institutions about the quality and quantity of education. After all, the companies know what skills their future employees should have. How good will it be if training institutes can tailor their education accordingly. Here too, public-private partnerships are essential. I am convinced that if we work well together, the port of Rotterdam can even strengthen its position. In the future, we can also earn a good living here, as long as we arrange the transition smartly and efficiently with each other. With the right investments, Rotterdam can become an important hydrogen hub in Europe.
Victor Van der Chijs
Abroad, the opportunities that hydrogen offers for the economy and society are better valued. Germany has set aside 9 billion euros and France 7 billion euros for hydrogen, and recently Germany presented 62 large hydrogen projects in which it will invest those billions. In addition, rules and state aid directives are applied flexibly in order to be able to produce hydrogen within their own national borders. The announced, relatively modest public investments in the Netherlands, and an unnecessarily strict national implementation of European rules, contrast sharply with this. It is becoming increasingly difficult for international companies to place their large electrolyzers (which produce hydrogen) in the Netherlands. The result is that the required investments in hydrogen do not end up in the Netherlands, nor the associated innovation ecosystems, activities and direct and indirect employment.
In the short term, it is therefore important to follow the example of Germany and France and to show companies that the Netherlands actually wants to be what it already is: the hydrogen hub of Europe. That means investing billions. Through the European state aid possibilities, but above all by investing in large-scale pilots, demonstration projects and the scaling up thereof. Ideally, the National Growth Fund will deliver an important contribution. Even when it comes to introducing European rules, we should not be left behind Germany and France.
Also, the open access hydrogen backbone and the international roll-out of this backbone must be realized in Northwest Europe. The pipeline bundle from Rotterdam to Chemelot and North Rhine-Westphalia is crucial in this respect. Without these interventions, no private party can justify investments in hydrogen production in the Netherlands and our dream electrolyzers will be built across the border.
I would therefore advise the new Minister to close the gap between ambitions and policy, in order to prevent private hydrogen investments from going abroad. If we do not intervene now, we will not be able to renew the Dutch economy and make it more sustainable and the Dutch climate target will then disappear behind the horizon.