Opening address by His Majesty King Willem-Alexander at the Wind Meets Gas symposium
Ladies and gentlemen,
Just over two years ago, about 30 kilometres from here, I opened HyStock, a project showing how sustainable electricity can be converted into green hydrogen and stored.
I still have clear memories of meeting Professor Hirose there. He is visiting professor at Kyushu University in Japan and is a renowned expert on hydrogen.
Professor Hirose explained to me the importance of green hydrogen for our future mobility. As a pilot, I asked him if we would ever have a fuel with a higher calorific value per unit of mass than kerosene. His answer? Hydrogen is three times more efficient. So I have high expectations of hydrogen for the aviation industry too.
And that future may come sooner than we think. In April I paid a working visit to Delft University of Technology, where I met a team of students on a remarkable mission.
Their goal is to develop the world’s first hydrogen-powered aircraft. They aim to have a two-seater flying in four years. And to make commercial flights possible within fifteen years.
I was curious about the composition of this team, which turned out to be surprisingly diverse, with fourteen different nationalities and twelve different disciplines. There were students of engineering, of course. But also industrial design, political science, sustainability, organisational change, finance and management.
Today, in Groningen, here with you all, I get the same feeling I had with those students in Delft six months ago.
Because big change is possible. The sky is the limit. But only if we’re willing to do it together and look beyond the boundaries. The boundaries of countries. Of sectors. And of individual interests.
Your presence here shows that you are part of a large, free-thinking team. This symposium is all about connecting and collaboration.
And not only in the northern Netherlands, but more broadly too, with partners in the rest of the country, in Germany, Denmark, Belgium and across Europe.
This is an exciting time. We all feel it. There’s a buzz in the air. Opportunities to transform our energy system are opening up before our eyes, with the help of green hydrogen combined with sustainable electricity and heat.
Everywhere, new horizons are being explored and coalitions formed.
Everywhere, strategies are being drawn up and plans presented. Everywhere, new initiatives are springing up.
I’ve seen several of them up close. In Assen I rode on a hydrogen-powered bus. In Zeeland I was briefed on the region’s hydrogen ambitions in partnership with Belgium. And in Hamburg, Bremerhaven and Berlin I saw how closely the Netherlands and Germany are working together. For example by linking wind and hydrogen in the North Sea.
So many developments that offer hope. But we also know that there’s still a long way to go.
The transition to a sustainable energy system is not only one of the most urgent challenges of our time. It’s also one of the most complex. We will need all our creativity and all our organisational skills to achieve it.
It looks so simple on paper. The amount of sunlight that strikes the earth in ninety minutes provides the same amount of energy used by the entire world in a year.
Now we just need to harvest it efficiently, as solar, wind or any other form of energy the sun provides us with.
Hydrogen could be a perfect solution to the problem of storage: it can store large amounts of energy, can be applied anywhere, and is suitable for large-scale transportation.
‘So what are we waiting for?’ we might ask.
As you all know, there’s more to it than that.
The cost of green hydrogen needs to fall dramatically if it is to become an affordable alternative that can compete with other energy sources. And to achieve that, operations need to be scaled up. According to international studies, a cost reduction of fifty per cent is feasible over the next ten years.
That illustrates the complexity of this transition. Supply, demand, storage and infrastructure. Laws, rules, market governance, investment and oversight.
This whole constellation of factors will need to revolve around sustainability.
Choices made in one domain influence those in other domains. If just one link in the chain is overlooked, a promising new development could be stopped in its tracks.
It’s like those old strings of Christmas lights. If just one bulb is loose, the entire tree goes dark.
And for that reason it’s encouraging that the European Union is helping to create a common approach. The goal is climate neutrality within 30 years.
It’s clear where the EU wants to get to, and what the ground rules are. This should enable each member state and each region to play their own part in the greater whole.
So let’s keep our gaze fixed on that greater whole. Here in the northern Netherlands you are doing just that. A ‘hydrogen valley’ is a wonderful thing. But the energy mustn’t stay in the valley. Networks need to connect. Knowledge ¬– and energy – need to flow.
I’m sure that this fifth Wind Meets Gas symposium will contribute to that goal.
Every one of you is needed in order to seize the opportunities offered by offshore wind and green hydrogen. Every one of you is part of the solution. So I wish you every success, both today and in the future. And I look forward to an update on your progress!