Green

Vi­sion

That fossil fuel gas is essential for the reduction of the greenhouse gas carbon dioxide in the short and medium term, is at first sight paradoxical. It seems absurd to assert that the more natural gas is burned, the fewer are the CO2 emissions. And yet that is the case. The explanation lies in the simple molecular composition of natural gas (methane): one carbon atom with four hydrogen atoms. The two other major fossil fuels, coal and oil, consist of many longer carbon chains, with many more carbon atoms. As a result, during combustion, significantly more greenhouse gas is released. By replacing coal and oil by natural gas where possible and sensible, overall emissions from energy consumption are thus considerably reduced.

This apparent contradiction is the crux of GasTerra’s energy transition and sustainability policy. In doing so, the company focuses on society’s concerns about energy policy and the role of gas in the solution of the energy problem: security of supply and affordability, reducing greenhouse gas emissions, improving air quality. That’s why we advocate the use of various methods: promotion of renewable energy sources, especially biogas, technological innovation, maximum energy savings, binding emission ceilings and strengthening the competitiveness of gas.

In this context, we place the emphasis on promising applications of gas: in the built environment and transport sectors. For example, the introduction of LNG for shipping and road transport and CNG for cars makes for significantly cleaner fuels that can significantly reduce polluting emissions and CO2 on a large scale. We also advocate an effective reform of the European emissions trading system to improve the now shaky position of gas in core electricity production. In addition, wherever possible, we seek dialogue and cooperation with other stakeholders from the government, politics, science and education, think tanks, NGOs and companies, whereby we emphasise that we agree on the objectives: a CO2 neutral, secure, and affordable energy supply.

What remains our principle is our conviction that the efficient large-scale use of natural gas contributes substantially to solving the energy and climate issue. The future cannot do without gas.

Knowl­edge shar­ing

GasTerra considers it important to generate more interest among stakeholders for the energy problem. After all, we are facing major challenges in order to provide future generations with abundant, sustainably generated and affordable energy as well. That’s why knowledge sharing is one of the substantive issues in this annual report. We share knowledge through education – from primary school through university – and by means of public debate. Making the energy supply more sustainable, the energy transition and the role that natural gas can fulfil are central issues in that. So we think together about the energy provision of tomorrow. 

In the context of our slogan Energizing the Future, we consider it important to already make children acquainted with energy at a young age, so that they can later make informed choices based on their knowledge. In this respect, we are in keeping with the desire of the government to raise awareness of sustainability among the youth. GasTerra sees the importance of the transition to sustainable energy provision and to this end is initiating various projects. In 2014 we spent approximately 3.1 million euros on energy transition projects.

Energy Academy Europe

Investing in knowledge about energy is one of the spearheads of GasTerra’s CSR policy. To raise this concern to a higher level, in 2012, GasTerra worked as a founding partner along with the University of Groningen, the Hanze University of Applied Sciences Groningen and Energy Valley to found the Energy Academy Europe (EAE). We actively participate in the activities of EAE by giving guest lectures, participating in considering the curriculum and offering internships. In the years to come, the EAE wants to develop into the international institute of higher and postgraduate education about energy. In addition, the EAE has set itself the goal of putting The Netherlands and more specifically Groningen on the map in the field of energy transition and sustainability. The Master’s programmes offered by the EAE therefore anticipate the future energy supply. In doing so, particular attention is paid to themes such as solar, wind, gas, biofuel, power-to-gas, systems integration, energy efficiency and CO2 emission reduction. Because the energy transition demands an approach from various perspectives, the studies are characterised by their multidisciplinary nature, whereby various disciplines work together to create a better and smarter future energy supply. In brief, the contribution to EAE is an apt illustration of the role that GasTerra ascribes to itself as a leading gas trading company: Energizing the future.

Meanwhile, international students have also found their way to the EAE to get a degree in energy studies. Currently, the European Master’s in Renewable Energy is being offered. The European Master’s in the field of system integration and social issues is under development. In early 2014, the first students received a certificate. 

In 2014, the Energy Academy Europe was given its own place in the Zernike Science Park in Groningen, where several faculties of the University of Groningen and the Hanze University of Applied Sciences Groningen are also located. To be able to accommodate the activities of ever more students, researchers and companies, in 2015, the temporary accommodation will be replaced by a new building. The starting signal for this new building was given on 12 June 2014. Also in the new quarters sustainability is at the focus. It thus promises to become the most sustainable educational building in The Netherlands. 

EnTranCe

EnTranCe (Energy Transition Center) is also located in the Zernike Science Park. This is a so-called living lab, a practical learning environment where educational institutions and the business community conduct research into future energy supply. A place where creative ideas and proposals in the energy field are developed into successful products or projects. GasTerra is involved in several of EnTranCe’s research projects. Since its establishment in 2012, the company has been working to this end with the EAE, BAM, Gasunie, Imtech and RWE. The underlying idea is that more can be achieved with shared innovation. 

In 2014, a stakeholder event took place at EnTranCe. Politicians, external experts, researchers and entrepreneurs were introduced to the project teams who are concentrating on energy transition issues. EnTranCe also organised an event for SMEs, at which those interested in energy and sustainable mobility could become introduced to this energy testing ground. For EnTranCe, SMEs are an important target group: small and medium-sized enterprises provide over 70 per cent of the innovation in the field of energy.

Learning Module for Energetic primary schools

To playfully teach children more about (sustainable) energy and the energy transition, in 2014, together with the Institute for Nature Education and Sustainability (IVN), GasTerra developed the ‘Energetic primary schools’ learning module. This learning module is designed for pupils from grade 5 through 8, and will be offered in the next few years to all primary schools in Groningen and Drenthe. Our contribution to ‘Energetic primary schools’ consists of financing, participating in thinking about content and giving guest lectures at schools. 

Tested by children

The learning module has been developed in close cooperation with four primary schools and takes a month to complete. In this way, IVN and GasTerra satisfy themselves that the module slots well into primary education. The schools have the discretion to give their own interpretation to the learning module. In the next few years, the lesson boxes will circulate among more than 300 primary schools, where the aim is to introduce some 10,000 children to this learning module.

The project kicks off in early 2015. That’s when 17 primary schools in the municipality of Aa en Hunze will get going with this learning module. Each school receives a lesson box containing a manual, workbooks and experiments that the children can carry out themselves. The teachers of the primary schools are pre-trained, learning about the basic principles of the energy transition.

Energy Podium Dinners

To promote dialogue among parties involved in the energy world, from amongst science, trade organisations, government and politics, environmentalists and entrepreneurs, GasTerra organised ten ‘Energy Podium Dinners’ throughout the country in 2014. During the dinners, the attendees hold discussions about preselected energy topics. The aim of this is to deepen and broaden knowledge about energy and enhance understanding for each other’s points of view. GasTerra commenced this initiative in 2012, which has since come to play an important part in our stakeholder dialogue.

Energiepodium.nl

The dinners grew out of an earlier initiative of GasTerra: the independent debate site Energiepodium.nl. This website publishes news, opinion and background information about the world of energy in a journalistic way. There are regular columnists who are free to choose topics within their areas of specialist interest and to determine positions. In order to ensure independence, we requested PACT Public Affairs, a public affairs and communications agency in The Hague, to take charge of the editing. The points of view of the authors do not necessarily represent the views and opinions of GasTerra.

Energy Podium Debate

The third activity associated with Energiepodium.nl is the Energy Podium Debate, in which, in the presence of an audience, expert speakers debate with each other about an energy topic. So far, four of these debates have been organised, three in The Hague and one in Brussels. 

In prac­tice

Sustainability is one of the spearheads of GasTerra’s policy. With various initiatives and projects, we actively contribute to the greening of our energy supply. 

Green gas

By means of various contracts, GasTerra gives meaning to the ‘Green Gas Green Deal’, an agreement which the company signed with the government and other market parties in 2011. In this we committed ourselves to trading the entire volume of green gas which can be fed into the GTS network in The Netherlands. With the purchase of this gas, GasTerra contributes to the fulfilment of its own goal: responsible sustainability of our energy supply. In doing so, GasTerra also focuses on households. In this context, in 2014, GasTerra supported projects in Ameland and in Gelderland. Since 2014, this province has been offering a grant for the installation of high-efficiency boilers that run on green gas. Through this, residents contribute to higher efficiency and sustainability of natural gas. In 2014, this project launched with a campaign which sought to roll out 1,250 high-efficiency boilers. However, with 30 boilers, this has not yet led to the desired result. Therefore the manufacturer, Remeha, has decided to involve the installation sector in Gelderland in the roll-out of the high-efficiency boilers in 2015. It is expected that the involvement of the installation sector will result in greater participation in the high efficiency campaign in Gelderland. 

In 2014, GasTerra and the eco-technology company Bio Rights signed an agreement for the production and delivery of 23 million m3 of sustainably produced gas per year. The contract has a term of twelve years. We also reached an agreement in 2014 with Ecoson, producer of green energy from fermentation, for the purchase of gas that Ecoson is going to produce in 2015 and 2016 with its green gas production facility. In addition, we have extended the expiring contracts with HVC and Greenchoice for the next few years. 

Environmental Plan for Industry

To help our customers make more efficient use of natural gas, in 2014, we also offered the Environmental Plan for Industry (EPI). In 2014, six industrial customers made use of this opportunity to have their production process scrutinised. Technical consultants, together with these customers, identified opportunities to improve energy efficiency in their business processes, reduce emissions and make their processes more sustainable. With the EPI we are realising our objective to promote the efficient use of gas.

For an overview of all projects in the educational field, please refer to our section GasTerra Doet 

GasTerra’s footprint

One of GasTerra’s objectives is the promotion of sustainable business operations. GasTerra helps its customers with this through the EPI, but does not forget its own business operations either. We realise that our own footprint is limited, but nevertheless want to make a contribution.

Travel

In 2013, GasTerra took a big step in this area with the move to a new office with an A+ energy rating. Because of the central location of this office, the limited number of parking spaces and its proximity to the Groningen Central Station (CS), since then most employees now come to work by public transport or on their bikes. GasTerra encourages its employees to use public transport for business travel and to this end has purchased public transport (OV) tickets. Apart from train, bus, tram and metro, this ticket also enables employees to use public transport taxis, public transport bikes and Park and Ride parking spaces. 

In 2014, a new style of working became further integrated into the company. More people appreciate the benefits of working from home and take advantage of this opportunity. To reduce business travel as well, GasTerra makes regular use of a video conferencing system. 

Energy usage

The energy usage also decreased again. When putting out for tender of the new building, the company set itself the target of reducing gas consumption to 35,000 m³ of gas per year. GasTerra attained this objective in 2014. Gas consumption decreased from 38,264 m³ in 2013 to 16,820 m³ in 2014. This decrease was partly due to the mild winter in 2014, but alongside that, improvements were also made to the building energy management system. The office is heated by two gas absorption heat pumps which make use of geothermal energy (heat and cold storage). When it is colder and the heat pumps do not have enough capacity, two HR107 boilers serve as a buffer to increase capacity. By means of improved balancing, the heat pumps worked for more hours this year and the boilers for much fewer. The lighting was also adjusted better so that lights are no longer on at undesired times. We expect to be able to reduce energy consumption even further in the next few years.

GasTerra has also compensated for its CO2 emissions for air travel and leased vehicles in 2014.  The Climate Neutral Group compensates for GasTerra’s emissions by replanting forests. The company adheres to strict quality criteria and is monitored by independent bodies.

  2013 2014
Gas consumption 38.264 m3 16.820 m3
Electricity 421.573 kWh 346.237 kWh
Water consumption 1193 m3 1393 m3
Paper consumption 50.000 sheets 35.000 sheets

Procurement

Finally, we look into all the products and services we buy with respect to price, quality and the efforts of the suppliers in the area of sustainable entrepreneurship. Based on these three criteria, a choice is made from what is on offer. We do this because we consider it important in order for sustainability to become rooted in our organisation. We are aware of the impact of our activities on people and the environment and demonstrate in this way, both internally and externally, that we are taking corporate social responsibility seriously. For example, we do business with an IT Company which has an A certification based on GRI guidelines and uses so-called green data centres. In addition, when choosing a supplier, preference is given to local partners to stimulate the economy of Groningen.

Interview Jan Paul van Soest

Interview Jan Paul van Soest

Jan Paul van Soest is one of the most experienced environmental and sustainability experts in The Netherlands. His background as a researcher, consultant, project manager and entrepreneur in this area dates back to the seventies, when he was deeply moved by the Report to the Club of Rome, The limits to growth. This reinforced his conviction that environmental protection is an absolute necessity and determined his choice of study: environmental health at the University of Wageningen. After graduating, he worked from 1982 in various job roles at CE Delft, whose service he left in 2003 as a director. Thereafter he started up for himself. His company, which he governs with his wife Barbara, is part of the cooperative De Gemeynt, in which, as the website states, independent consultants, thinkers and entrepreneurs ‘are involved in the interaction between the economy and ecology and in organising cooperation among key players to facilitate sustainable solutions.

Read the interview

Interview Jan Paul van Soest

We must fully dedicate ourselves to climate policy

Jan Paul van Soest

The report to the Club of Rome, which warns of a rapid depletion of resources, was your source of inspiration. How do you look back at it after all these years? After all, it is criticised by many as an exaggerated message of doom which has not come to pass.

"The core message is still standing. Which is that we cannot continue in the same way as before. The analysis is correct in general terms, irrespective of the numbers, even now. To be sure, it was a different time. In the seventies, the emphasis was on the finiteness of resources. Now we focus much more on the negative effects of usage. But that makes no difference to the conclusion that we drastically need to turn over a new leaf."

The ideals that drove you at the beginning of your active career, are they still as relevant today as they were then?

"Even more relevant. The urgency has increased. But the themes have changed. In the seventies and eighties, these were much more local in nature. We kept ourselves occupied with acidification, smog formation, water pollution, waste problems. Now the emphasis is primarily on global issues: the nitrogen and carbon cycle, loss of biodiversity, climate change caused by human activity. In The Limits to growth, this is only casually talked about."

Climate change is currently by far the most important environmental issue. Is this not at the expense of other issues that are perhaps more urgent, such as air quality?

"I don’t believe so. We should also not underestimate the urgency of the climate issue. That this nevertheless happens has to do with the human spirit which is almost incapable of conceiving of future climate change as urgent. That you must now make sacrifices to prevent irreparable damage later unfortunately does not sink in for most people."

Many environmentalists and activists are warning that the world is facing a catastrophe if we do not switch over to 100 per cent sustainable energy within ten or fifteen years. Europe is aiming for 80 per cent in 2050. How realistic are those ambitions?

"Renewable energy ought not to be the main objective. The issue at stake is greenhouse gas reduction. You have to choose your goals based on the problem. I have no problem with fossil fuel per se; it is the effects of consumption with which I am struggling. What’s the point of aiming for a goal of 80 per cent renewable energy if the CO2 emissions nonetheless rise, inter alia because relatively clean fuels such as natural gas are displaced by coal?"

The world is struggling with more major issues in addition to climate change: poverty, hunger, epidemics. What they have in common is that a lot of money is needed to fight them. However, you can only spend a euro once. Shouldn't we, in cases of urgency, make choices? First, the most important?

"The stability of ecosystems is a prerequisite for life on earth. Without a habitable planet none of those other issues can be solved. There is thus an order of priority. We must fully commit to climate policy. Businesses and consumers have enough money. There is no need to weigh the charities up against each other. It is about making different choices. Spending on the environment versus spending on cosmetics, to mention just one example."

Then we’re talking about lifestyle. Which cannot be forced.

"No, but that is not my intention. Ideally, you take generic measures such as the imposition of a charge. That is then reflected in economic choices. But it remains for companies and individuals to make those choices. I think a general CO2 tax is best. But a trading system such as the European ETS may also suffice provided, of course, that it is reformed. The current CO2 price is totally inadequate for inducing businesses to make the right decisions. The biggest changes in this area should come from the business-to-business markets. To be honest, I don’t expect anything from the consumer. That isn’t where the driving force for change is to be found. If thirty years of environmental studies has taught me one thing, it’s that."

It is likely that the temperature will rise more than the limit of two degrees that has been politically established. Isn’t it time that we devote more resources to adaptation, mitigating the effects of climate change rather than to reduce greenhouse gas emissions?

"Adaptation is ultimately meaningless if you don’t do anything about the source. But it’s not a question of either-or, but rather of both-and. I am also concerned that we do too little about adaptation. But virtually no adaptation strategy is able to cope with nearly four degrees of warming."

The environmental movement often reacts negatively to arguments that emphasise the feasibility of measures. They seem to find the ambition to achieve something more important than feasibility of an objective. What is your take on this?

"There’s nothing wrong with ambition. To put it even more strongly: without ambition, nothing ever changes. But you must very clearly distinguish reality from your ambition, your vision, your ideal. Those who only want to talk about feasibility, I will gladly confront with the consequences of that: warming-as-usual. On the other hand, I would like to confront the idealists with the reality. Thus, we may think that the promotion of electric vehicles is a success. But the reality is that billions of euros of taxpayers’ money have been given away to plug-in hybrid cars that, unless they are charged, give you a fuel consumption of no more than 1:11. About 1,500 euros per metric ton of avoided CO2; count your losses."

The theme of our annual report is Energizing the future. This is GasTerra’s slogan, by which we indicate that we see ourselves as having an important role to play for gas as a transition fuel. A good choice?

"That depends on how you interpret the slogan. The claim that gas is the ideal transition fuel is, I think, untenable in today’s world with its low coal prices, low CO2 prices, vast gas reserves and a growing concern about methane leaks. CO2 prices must first go up sharply, to a minimum of 50 euros per metric ton. In addition, you also have to consider what gas can actually contribute to reducing CO2 emissions. Let’s take a broader look at gaseous fuels instead of natural gas alone which, particularly in Europe, has seen its licence to operate crumbling away. Too little is said about gas in the broadest sense of the word, that is to say about green gas, hydrogen, its flexibility, the storage capabilities of gas, and so forth. As an innovator, the gas industry has a lot to offer. I think LNG is a good example of this. This can be of great assistance in cleaning up highly polluting shipping. The use of fuel cells is another striking example. All this must of course take place under the precondition of sharply declining CO2 emissions."

And Carbon Capture Storage (CCS)?

"That’s certainly part of it, even stronger: without CCS, gas cannot, in the long run, make good on its claim that gas helps reduce carbon emissions. The more I look at all the analyses, the more I realise that gas is now being discarded in favour of coal which, please note, gives off twice as many emissions. Gas must therefore distinguish itself more strongly against coal. Not only verbally in the public debate, but also by thinking about incentives to push coal back."

The climate issue is incredibly complex and seems almost insoluble. After all those years in the environmental sector, are you still optimistic about a final solution for it?

"I try not to let the question of whether I am optimistic or pessimistic depend on what is feasible. I do what I do because I think that it puts something in motion. Optimism or pessimism might dissuade you from doing the right things. I am hopeful, though. Hope, said the former Czech President Vaclav Havel, is a quality of the soul and does not depend on what happens in the world. He was right. And finally that wall fell."

What does the world need more? Idealists or pragmatists?

"Pragmatic idealists and idealistic pragmatists."