Netherlands – Giving a boost to sustainable hydrogen projects
Netherlands – Giving a boost to sustainable hydrogen projects.
The Netherlands is in energy transition. In the coming decades, our country will switch from fossil energy, such as coal, gas and oil, to sustainable energy such as hydrogen. To manage this change, senior policy advisors such as Mirthe Kuenen at the Ministry of Economic Affairs and Climate (EZK) are working on the future of our energy.
Making the Netherlands more sustainable
Making the Netherlands more sustainable is Mirthe’s area of expertise. As a policy advisor, she works on the development of the Dutch hydrogen market: an important pillar of the energy transition. ‘I am project leader for a large European subsidy process. We thus support various parts of the hydrogen chain.’ Together with other European countries, we want to organize a European hydrogen chain within Europe in a short time. In my role I ensure that hydrogen projects in the Netherlands get off the ground. We give them that final push.
From private to public sector
Mirthe’s career started as a consultant in the field of economic issues. In that position she first came into contact with the energy transition and hydrogen: topics that have never lost her interest since. ‘This job brings together many things that I like, namely the energy transition, social issues and economic perspectives.’ Policy advisors like Mirthe ponder over all these topics. ‘I thought it was quite a step to move from the private to the public sector, but also a logical one. All the topics I liked in my previous job are reflected here.’
Mirthe quickly understood that she needed to have a broad view. Her work has many different perspectives. ‘Legally, economically and financially. In addition, I always work from a political point of view. I don’t just write advice based on analyses, it is also about what is going on and what political developments there are.’ Difficult decisions often cross her desk. ‘I have to make decisions quickly to advise senior officials and the minister. I found that difficult at first. I was used to having a lot of information so that I could make a decision calmly. Here it is the other way around.’ That took some getting used to. But now Mirthe finds the challenge interesting. ‘And I think it is especially special that I can contribute to such great things.’
As a consultant, she was used to things being arranged within a day. ‘It’s different with the government. Processes take longer here. That is not due to the efforts of the people, but to all the hoops you have to jump through. You have to think carefully about how processes work and which people you need for this. But when the urgency is high, things also happen quickly.
Because of her previous experience, Mirthe knew what to expect from the content of her work. Yet the form exceeded her expectations. ‘One day I speak with lawyers, the next day I make a financial plan. As a policy advisor, you are the one who meets a lot. You have to be able to switch quickly between different subjects and you often have shorter focus moments.’ No week can be planned in advance. ‘Even during the day a lot changes and new things come to you. Sometimes it is chaotic and you cannot predict that. You have to be able to handle this.’
Go on a quest
During the training period, Mirthe immediately feels welcome. ‘This helped in my search. I was not familiar with how an administrative organization works and I started to discover this myself. I quickly discovered that a lot of information is in people’s heads.’ Finding the right head turned out to be an art. ‘It took some time to discover who I should contact with certain questions and how to arrange things in a tactical manner. This also applies to the systems I had to deal with. All in all, I’ve been a bit searching.
Mirthe hopes to continue learning how to make good policy. ‘What is required for this and how I make the right balance between all the interests at stake. When is something a good choice? I also want to learn more about the development of the hydrogen market, the broader energy market and how they are interrelated.’
All options open
And the future? ‘I actually never think further than 5 years ahead. But if I have to do that now, I hope that I can make great steps within the government over the next 5 years and learn a lot.’ She does not rule out a return to the private sector. ‘Although I do see that people continue to work here for a long time. I’m keeping all options open. Never say never.’