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Saskia
Innovation

Interview with the Deputy Mayor Saskia Bruines

The Hague is the place-to-be for impact entrepreneurs

 

The Hague, traditionally the number one location for energy businesses in the Netherlands, is also rapidly transforming itself into a hotspot for the energy transition. “When it comes to sustainable energy, there is no Dutch city that has more to offer in terms of business activity, knowledge networks and technology development,” says Saskia Bruines, Deputy Mayor and alderman for Economic Affairs, International Affairs and Municipal Services, in an exclusive interview.

In June 2020, the municipal government of The Hague adopted a new Economic Vision which will serve as a roadmap for the city’s economic policy for the coming years. The Vision aims to broaden the city’s economic base by developing three internationally attractive sectors: Legal & Policy Capital (just world), Security Delta (safe world) and Impact City (better world). One of the key elements of Impact City is sustainable energy. According to alderman Saskia Bruines, The Hague has all it takes to become a major international hub for the energy transition.

  • The Hague has a global reputation as the city of peace and law. What makes it also interesting for companies in the energy sector?

“Some 7400 people work in the energy sector in The Hague. Almost all major oil and gas companies have their Dutch head offices in The Hague and Shell its international head office. The same goes for many international engineering and consulting companies. The Hague also hosts many networking organisations, such as industry associations, and major knowledge institutions such as the Netherlands Environmental Assessment Agency (PBL), Clingendael International Energy Programme, The Hague Centre for Security Studies (HCSS) and of course Delft University of Technology and the Netherlands Organisation for Applied Scientific Research (TNO), two of the world’s leading energy research institutes. This cluster emerged here in part because many companies are active in the North Sea, and because the national government is located here. Energy has always been heavily affected by government policy and this is not about to change.”

  • What specifically is going on in The Hague in terms of sustainable energy and the energy transition?

“Too much to mention! The North Sea will become one of the world’s largest locations for the production of offshore wind energy. It is no coincidence that offshore wind leaders like Siemens and Orsted have offices in The Hague dedicated to technological innovation. We also have designated a special Testing Area in the North Sea where sustainable energy activities can be tried out and developed, such as seaweed farming. Oceans of Energy has built the world’s first offshore floating solar farm off the coast of The Hague. Delft University of Technology, world famous for its solar-powered racing cars, is a hotspot for energy innovation. Tech incubator Yes!Delft was chosen as the second best academic startup incubator in the world in 2018. Delft University now also has teams developing a hydrogen-powered racing car and a hyperloop. In Rijswijk next to The Hague the new Centre for Sustainable Geo-energy was opened recently where companies can carry out research and pilot projects. Also don’t forget that the traditional offshore oil and gas producers, as well as the engineering and services suppliers, are all busy ‘greening’ their activities and they are doing a lot of this right here in The Hague.”

  • What does the city itself do to attract and support companies?

“When an impact company wants to set up shop in the Hague, we roll out the red carpet. Impact entrepreneurs in the energy sector can count on support in finding office space, homes for staff, funding, marketing, recruitment and networking opportunities with other companies and institutions. For foreign companies much of this is done through The Hague Business Agency. We also have a number of specific projects going on in energy transition that companies can participate in, such as Campus@Sea for activities around the North Sea and Living Lab Scheveningen for smart city initiatives.”

  • What will be the most important themes and developments in sustainable energy over the next years in The Hague in your view?

“There is a lot of technological development taking place in geothermal and aqua-thermal energy, hydrogen, solar energy, offshore wind, smart grids, data analysis and energy storage. But the energy transition also crosses over into new business models and new legal and regulatory solutions. The Hague has a lot of knowledge and innovative strength in these areas. This makes The Hague the-place-to-be for innovative impact entrepreneurs!”

  • The Hague – city of New Energy

In the coming weeks we will showcase a number of activities taking place in and around The Hague in the area of “new energy”. We will do this in the form of  a number of interviews with key players and innovators who work in The Hague. We will talk with representatives from offshore wind specialist Siemens Gamesa, research institute TNO, financial services company ASN Bank, legal specialists Pels Rijcken and Bird & Bird, start-ups Solar Monkey and X-Systems and the municipal government itself. They will share with us their views on the energy transition, their own activities and what it is like to work and live in The Hague.