It’s the sustainable economy, stupid

Knowledge brokering25 Jun 2010Marco Witschge

Momentarily we find ourselves on the highway of one economic crisis leading to another. We are busy bandaging our ill economy where a short-term focus determines the vision at the cost of the long-term consequences. You don’t need to be a socialist or liberal to understand that sooner or later you will pay the price for irresponsible economic policy. Our only exit is a radical reform to make our economy sustainable and to prevent us from new crises within the next decades.

Energy is one of today’s most important issues of sustainability. The International Energy Agency concluded in the World Outlook 2009 that we are standing in front of an unavoidable and very difficult energy revolution. Our present energy sources, such as oil and gas, are being slowly depleted and will not meet the rising energy demand of the world. If we do not act soon, this will lead to price increases, more recessions and geopolitical tensions. Moreover, our present energy use contributes to the worsening climate change leading to more radical ecological and economic damages as a result.

In the Netherlands, the political starting sign for the energy revolution has meantime been given. In a unique collaboration, the sustainability committees from 7 political parties have written a ground-breaking plan for switching the Dutch economy to 100% renewable energy before 2050, for instance based on solar, geothermal or wind. On this plan (Nederland Krijgt Nieuwe Energie) many well-known energy experts also contributed their expertise, such as McKinsey & Company, Boston Consulting Group, KEMA, Erasmus University Rotterdam and Utrecht University. This constitutes an ambitious plan that details this enormous challenge into a national project with which all political parties, all citizens and all firms can agree, because it formulates the quickest route to an affordable, trustworthy and clean way of providing energy.

The plan’s most important points of action have been written down in the so called Declaration of Utrecht:

  1. Formulate as a national priority a complete renewable energy supply in 2050,

  2. Establish clear long-term boundary conditions in a New Energy Law within which the government, citizens and businesses are stimulated to start new activities and innovatio

  3. Increase the application of the generally accepted ‘the polluter pays’ principal by imposing consistent fiscal consequences to realize environmental management.

  4. Offer energy intensive industries the chance to meet stringent standards within a reasonable amount of time in order to maintain their international competitiveness.

  5. Administer a legally endorsed feed-in tariff with which a stimulating climate for investment in renewable energy and co-generation can be created.

  6. Establish a National Energy Investment Fund to make energy saving measures and investments in renewable energy easier to finance.

  7. Invest as quickly as possible in a smart energy infrastructure, with which the variable rate of renewable energy question and demand can be synchronized.

  8. Oblige all energy suppliers to offer an increasingly higher percentage of renewable energy and announce an immediate stop of all new building of conventional power generation plants of non-renewable energy.

  9. Promote energy efficient behavior with a wide range of governmental measures such as a much improved public transportation, more stringent product norms, etc.

  10. Invest in knowledge and know-how in the new expertise area of “clean-tech”, which can put our country in the world-wide top ten of this enormous growth market in 2015.

Of course, a successful energy transition will demand both national and international action. Right after the publication of this Dutch plan, the European Climate Foundation published its ground-breaking report Roadmap 2050 with 4 energy transition scenario’s for Europe including a 100% renewable energy scenario for 2050.