In the scope of the EU’s 20/20/20 targets, the European energy and climate issue has become a challenge for the affordability, availability and accessibility to more sustainable forms of energy and energy systems. With increasing network interconnection and cross-boundary energy production initiatives, the various energy systems within Europe become more and more intertwined. Aside from the fact that these system integrations create clear benefits to society as a whole in terms of economic effectiveness, integrating formerly disconnected national energy systems does confront the triple helix with some serious technical, economical and institutional challenges. The common denominator for all triple helix stakeholders is how to effectively, efficiently and intelligently facilitate, speed up and commercialize this ongoing integration process (for research institutes, public authorities and private sector stakeholders) that provides both opportunities and threats not only in economic , but also increasingly so in social and environmental terms.
In 2008 the SER Noord Nederland (SER NN) already underlined the growing need for cross-border cooperation in its advice on the ‘Noordelijke ontwikkelingsas’ (Northern economic development corridor). In this advice the argument was developed to further intensify the economic links between Northern Netherlands and regions in North-eastern direction, ranging from Germany to Poland, the Baltic region and Scandinavia. Since the release of that advisory report, a number of initiatives has been developed to substantiate the Northern corridor concept. One of those initiatives relates to energy cooperation on a triple-helix basis between Northern Netherlands, (hereafter referred to as the Energy Valley (EV) region) and Lower Saxony and Bremen. This collaboration has led to the establishment of the Hansa Energy Corridor (HEC) organization in 2009. Due to a subsidy of the Interreg Program, the HEC organization has gradually grown into a network of research institutes, energy companies and public bodies on both sides of the border.
The current structure has typically grown bottom-up, with a clear focus on innovative research-driven activity based on public-private, German-Netherlands partnerships focusing on joint energy action within the region itself. At the same time the HEC initiative receives clear support top-down from the political leaders of the region.
Given the progress so far, however, it looks like the stage has been reached to seriously consider the future target and scope of the HEC, and address the issue if the current scope and structure are sufficiently robust to tackle the enormous energy challenges ahead. This becomes even more urgent due to the fact that the current HEC organization is based on an INTERREG project which will be finished at the end of 2012.
Therefore, in this advisory report the SER Noord-Nederland elaborates on the question whether the HEC initiative should continue. If that is the case, to what extend the continuation should take place and how it should be organized?
In this advice, the SER Noord-Nederland first seeks to explore what the true synergetic basis of the HEC collaboration is and can be within a regional and European context, and how and to what extent the regions can benefit from cross-border energy partnership collaboration. In other words: ‘Why HEC? (see section 1).’ Second, the advice concerns the possible future scope of the HEC collaboration and some related design questions (see section 2). Third, given the preferred scope, the advice concentrates on how a future HEC initiative could be structured to reach the economic, social and environmental energy and climate targets set: ‘How HEC? (see section 3).’ Finally, the three above elements are consolidated in an overall advice on the future of the HEC (section 4).
With this advisory report, the SER Noord-Netherlands offers its input to the discussion whether or not to continue with the HEC initiative. Moreover, SER Noord-Nederland hopes this report helps to bring some insights into the HEC organization for discussion within the HEC Advisory Council.
Given the German–Netherlands scope of the current HEC initiative, the committee preparing this report included the following experts:
- Catrinus Jepma (chair)
- Thomas Klencke (University of Oldenburg)
- Gerard van Pijkeren (Gasunie – Vertogas)
- Robert Wittmaekers (BAM)
- Hans Peter Beck (EFZN)
- Jutta Geldermann (University Göttingen)
- Bob Bergsma (SER Noord-Nederland)
- Lambert Zwiers (SER Noord-Nederland)
The committee met three times in the period between November 2011 – March 2012.