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The Dutch Civic Energy Revolution

Thu, 01/28/2016

By Erik Martens , Director Public Affairs & Timen van Haaster , Advisor & Project Manager, MSLGROUP in the Netherlands

The Netherlands has experienced somewhat of an odd path towards a sustainable energy transition. Where Germany had its ‘Energiewende’ and Sweden also went through a sustainable energy revolution, the Dutch market can be characterised more by evolution than by revolution. This has to do with the Dutch way of doing politics, which by tradition is strongly focused towards consensus. The most prominent example when it comes to energy: the Energy Accord, which has no less than 200 strongly diverging signatory parties and which, unsurprisingly, self-destructed shortly after its entry into force due to the lack of choices being made and subsequent struggles between the stakeholders involved. This shaky and unstable agreement is a strong reflection of the current situation in the Netherlands, and Dutch politics. Alliances and coalitions are shifting, requiring makeshift solutions and deals with a large number and range of actors involved. And then…the crowd stepped in.

Power to the People, the term mostly used for the 60s of the past century and not very common in the Netherlands, seems to have re-emerged in full force in this country. Citizens are more and more committed to exert direct influence on civic society, NGOs, politicians and media through a range of social & digital channels that are available to them. The establishment still seems unable to cope with this development. They were reactive already, but this now comes under even greater scrutiny. It might seem easy or cliché to credit social & digital media as the main reason, but we have seen some recent, striking examples in the Netherlands.

Take the pending lawsuit by ‘green’ platform Urgenda versus the Dutch State regarding the lack of progress on Dutch CO2 emissions reduction policy. They won, with the court judging that the Dutch State needs to make amends in order to fulfill its promises. At this moment, an appeal by the Dutch government is taking place. The same goes for the Dutch moratorium on shale gas exploration and extraction for the coming five years after active campaigning against it by municipalities, NGOs and citizen platforms. This also forced the Dutch government to fundamentally reconsider its stance on shale and its energy policy at large.

Occupied! Claimed by and for the ‘Groningers’ (local population’).
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