David Molenaar: 'We aim to make clear, balanced choices'
David Molenaar, country division head Wind Power at Siemens Nederland, is involved in a Responsible Innovation study on wind power. In this project researchers from Delft University of Technology are working together with energy providers and industry to explore the conditions that offshore wind parks should meet to gain broad acceptance. After the ‘false start’ of wind energy in the Netherlands they hope to contribute to re-launching a solid industry that all of the parties involved can be proud of in thirty years’ time.
Why is Siemens interested in working together with Responsible Innovation scientists on the acceptability of wind power?
'As a company we do not want to go against society's wishes. That means a lot to us. For example, it is why we stopped building nuclear power plants after the Fukushima disaster when nuclear power was no longer supported by the German public. So we take people's sensitivities seriously, but we are also looking for sound arguments to bring a few more nuances into the discussion on wind energy. The current debate in the Netherlands is highly polarised.'
Why is the discussion on wind energy polarised?
'Over the past few decades wind turbines have been placed haphazardly at many locations in the Netherlands, without much of a master plan. This still bothers our industry.'
Do you think it is possible to turn the tide?
'Well, yes. In the Energy Agreement that was signed by a broad Dutch partnership a few months ago, offshore wind energy is embraced as a promising source of clean energy. Only this time we have to play it right.'
'Green energy in itself is no longer a holy grail. Now we have to build a sound and solid business case that makes wind energy truly competitive. And this time we do want to work out a grand master plan, which takes into account the interests of all parties involved. So we do want to listen to the people living near wind farms and we do want to listen to fishermen, to name but a few. We may not be able to meet everyone’s needs, but we will try to find creative solutions to the conflicts of interest that inevitably arise.'
How does working together with economists, sociologists, physicists and philosophers within the Responsible Innovation programme help?
'I enjoy working with these people because their theoretical framework heightens my awareness of everything that is going on around wind energy. We in turn put pressure on the academics to operationalise their concepts and connect with the world of industry and commerce.'
What goal you have set yourselves?
'We aim to make clear, balanced choices. Work towards a well-defined plan that forms the basis of an industry that we can be really proud of in thirty years from now. Who knows what will happen? We cannot look into the future. Perhaps in thirty years' time we will find out that we took a wrong turn. But even then we can still be proud of the decisions we took, because they were thoroughly worked out with the knowledge we have today.'