What is the economic potential as well as societal benefit of system innovations for the energy transition in the Netherlands?

Under the threats of climate change and the scarcity of key raw materials, the Dutch economy and society need to radically start changing. For the energy sector, national securities and reliable income sources (Dutch gas, import and process of oil) will slowly need to make way for new ways to generate reliable incomes. What this future will look like exactly remains uncertain; it is however clear that technological innovation will be essential to this process.

This project analysed the economic potential and societal benefits of system innovations for the energy transition in The Netherlands. The position and competitiveness of the innovative options in international perspective were reviewed for the main phases of the so-called ‘Shih’ value chain (i.e. R&D, production and commercialisation). The economic potential was measured along three main axes, namely: the current status of the innovation, the potential for upscaling and international competitiveness using 12 indicators.

The core of the study consisted of seven fiches on system innovations for which the economic potential in the Netherlands was assessed. The topics of the fiches were:

1. Energy storage and system integration
2. System integration in the built environment
3. Sustainable neighbourhoods
4. Carbon capture and utilization
5. Industrial symbiosis
6. Advanced renewable transport fuels
7. Electric passenger transport

The final report contains conclusions on the strengths and weaknesses of the Netherlands that are relevant in the context of the energy transition, based on the overall scores per indicator, derived by combining the individual scores from the fiches.

The main conclusions of the study were as follows:

  • Rather than stimulation of technical innovation only, especially the societal and organizational side of energy system innovations require more attention in the Dutch energy transition.
  • Strong governmental leadership in the energy transition is needed, with a clear long-term vision, stable policies and a careful attention in particular to public support for policies.
  • System innovations in the built environment, such as renovations to arrive at (near) zero energy buildings and energy production and storage on a neighbourhood level are options that seem to be most promising for theDutch economy to develop first on a larger scale in the domestic market, and then for export.
  • In order to achieve this, iconic large-scale pilot projects are needed that can show the achievements of Dutch energy transition to other countries.