Energy Transition: Strategies and Insights From the C-Suite

The scale of the energy transition is unparalleled and will affect all sectors, some dramatically. Ever more companies are seeing the opportunities: innovation and efficiency have helped put the green energy business case on the map. Yet these cannot be isolated efforts, but rather require collaboration between stakeholders.

In this special Amrop report, directors of major Dutch companies, including global market leaders, respond to the transforming energy space.

Energy Transition Special Report

The Netherlands – Energy Transition Microcosm

The Paris Agreement brought the imperative for the energy transition to a head. Following the first tentative steps by governments and companies, we are now on the eve of a large- scale movement. The need for change is clear, making the switch to sustainable energy sources is less and less of a choice, and we have passed the tipping point. Sustainability has moved from small-scale, experimental CSR measures into new ways of doing business - and new revenue models. Yet these cannot be isolated efforts, but rather require collaboration between stakeholders.

For the Netherlands, famous for its dikes, polders, canals and windmills, the interplay between wind and sea has long been central. However, recent decades have seen a strong reliance on fossil fuels, as evidenced by the port of Rotterdam and companies such as Shell. Indeed, the Netherlands is home to some of the world’s most important energy and infrastructure multinationals. This report views the energy transition through the lens of this fast-evolving market.

Global energy transition - a growing movement

Transforming the energy economy is no trivial task, and to succeed it is crucial to take a holistic and inter-connected approach, rather than a series of separate measures. Industries, companies and households must become more sustainable individually, whilst transforming entire energy systems. Countries must distribute burdens and benefits so that each stakeholder’s contribution creates optimal value in a clean and competitive energy economy.

As the energy transition gains momentum, it’s becoming clear that whilst the challenges are many, so are the opportunities. Companies can and must look forward to jointly growing new markets, backing their pioneering role with solid investments. And with the Paris goals already risk missing the mark, urgency is concentrating minds and money as never before.

Roland Theuws, Partner, Amrop, The Netherlands.

About the Special Report

Beyond the hype, this report contains:

  • Honest reflections from the industry front lines
  • Insights into energy transition innovations
  • A window on the progress of sustainability post Paris

If you are an executive in the energy and infrastructure sector, if the energy transition is affecting your supply chain, growth or profitability, or to discover how leadership peers are tackling high-profile change in a fiendishly complex environment, we invite you to read the full report.

Executive Summary

Our report has 2 parts. In ‘New Energy’, we set out a vision for the future and the key developments of different energy sources. In ‘Stakeholders’ we focus on the social ingredient examining 3 major groups: Companies, Consumers and Government.

Part 1: New Energy

01 | The Power Grid

Once a simple connection from power plant to customer, the cumbersome fossil-fueled plant is no longer future-proof. The energy transition is fostering a spectacular nationwide growth in wind turbines and solar panels, clean but small power sources. Our report explores how:

  • Demand for electric power will surge in the coming decade.
  • Disconnecting power generation and supply will break up old monopolies.
  • One-way grids are moving to interconnected, dynamic systems.
  • Technology and digitization are putting customers in charge.
  • Weather risk is offset by alternative energy sources, integrated markets, and storage.
  • Energy supply means 3 A’s: Affordable, Available and Acceptable.
  • Wind energy is gaining dominance in a mix of energy sources. The ultimate outcome is still open.

02 | New Heat Supply

For over half a century, the Netherlands has heated its homes and buildings with natural gas – a unique situation in the world. But as our report reveals, change is afoot:

  • Neighborhood actions could free up the fossil fuel lock-in.
  • Old gas infrastructure requires creativity and cooperation to find solutions.
  • Gas, still the cleanest fossil fuel, is under threat from cheaper dirty relatives.

03 | New Fuels, Disconnected World

Contrary to grids, fuel has the capacity to bring power to mobile power consumers, which we call the “disconnected world”. Fossil fuels form the cornerstone of today’s energy economy: for the transport sector, as a raw material, for industry. The transition to sustainable fuels will be a far greater challenge than to green electricity. Making industrial processes sustainable is technically demanding, innovation involves high costs affecting the entire chain. Our report outlines that:

  • Just as the clean energy agenda gathers pace, the global fossil fuels market is growing.
  • Energy transition demands transition fuels: most-cited are liquid and compressed natural gas, ‘scrubbers’, electrical/hybrid and hydrogen.

04 | Storage

One of the most crucial innovations is decoupling electricity production and consumption. When demand is high, electric power must be generated, but in future wind and solar power can be stored for later, absorbing dips in the grid. Leaders tell us that:

  • Batteries will need a technological breakthrough to leave the domestic niche.
  • All storage methods will find their place, if molecular storage may best suit industry, the jury is still out.

Part 2: Stakeholders

01 | Companies

Business front-runners are using energy transition to their advantage. They are making sustainability a fully-fledged earning model and securing an enduring competitive advantage beyond ‘business as usual’. This helps attract young talent and out-innovate rivals. But it cannot be a casual enterprise. It will take a balanced strategy, consistently followed-through, clear and public corporate declarations, and the involvement of employees. In our report, you can find out why:

  • Organizations who fail to plant the flag now risk falling behind.
  • With creativity, and spin-offs, disadvantages can be turned into their opposite.
  • Long-term advantage means allowing (cost-effective) sustainability to migrate from CSR into the core business.
  • The energy transition is uniting sectors and competitors, and building new sectors and coalitions.

02 | Citizens

Consumers often lag behind companies in the energy transition. But public backing is crucial to building a critical mass of support. Business is trying to encourage consumers to think differently. Our interviews reveal that:

  • Business is taking the lead over consumers.
  • Green is still the domain of the well-off consumer, and needs to be democratized.
  • Business must show consumers the way, giving insights and new financial instruments.
  • New builds are increasingly (almost) energy-neutral, existing structures remain an unpredictable obstacle for householders.

03 | Governments

Government has the muscle to determine the playing field for the energy economy and set the conditions for a coherent transition, from setting business objectives, regulatory and energy provision frameworks, to providing technical education. However, government will have a lesser role than business in effecting the actual change. According to the business leaders interviewed:

  • Government policy must be decisive, predictable and forward-looking to reassure business investors – and answer social need.
  • Government must lead the big investments in clean energy, innovation and creating new sectors, and make brave social and fiscal choices.
  • Regulation means setting the goal, not the way, business need room to find creative answers.
  • The market will ultimately decide which innovation has the most traction, and help it grow.
  • Too much restriction will backfire and damage business and the economy.

Download the full Report