The NIMBY effect


Can we allow ourselves this resolute "no" to all the available options for designing a sustainable energy supply? Jan Hendrik Annema, Manager Renewable Gas Supply GasTerra gives his opinion.

No gas production in Groningen, no shale gas, no CO2 storage, no onshore wind turbines, no new onshore gas production, no additional gas production offshore, no solar farms, no biogas, no geothermal energy, no heat network, no nuclear energy, no back-up in coal-fired plants, no Russian gas imports and, most important of all, no increase in energy bills.

That's the way we do it in the Netherlands, that's how we solve problems, you can do that in a democracy; voice your opinion and offer resistance, without hesitation and without fear.
We say a resolute "no"; Not In My Back Yard, NIMBY! A resolute "no" to any change, to the status quo and to new ideas, a "no" to fossil fuels and to sustainable solutions. A convinced "yes" to "Paris" but not in my house, my garden, my city or my country and certainly not with my cash!

All these "no's" are very understandable. Without evident advantages, we prefer the existing state of affairs, the familiar, the comfortable and the affordable to what's unknown, new, uncertain or imposed on us. Reasons for resistance are logical, based on experienced or anticipated insecurity, inconvenience, damage, loss of comfort, loss of influence, loss of choice and the prospect of additional costs.

But can we allow ourselves this resolute "no" to all the available options for designing a sustainable energy supply?

The answer to that is no! And that's due to a few sobering facts: the energy transition is not a choice but a necessity; the energy transition will cost a huge stack of money and will have to be paid by all of us together; the transition is going to last a very long time and will also have to happen in your backyard and in mine.

If the NIMBY virus continues to spread we will almost certainly fail to achieve the stated objectives. At the end of 2016, we had achieved six percent sustainable energy (source: CBS); so we had another 94 percent to go. The main reason it's going so excruciatingly slowly is that we ask for, and we're given, the leeway to say a resolute "no" and to shelve the problem. By 2020 we must have reached 14%, by 2023, 16%. The new cabinet considers a 49% reduction in CO2 by 2030 to be an attainable goal. We're good at setting ambitious targets for the distant future, for our successors to realize.

The ultimate effects speak for themselves: costs end up being higher than they needed to be; we have much less time than we need; a new energy system is "worse" than it could have been.

Are all the features of the energy transition put forward as being so negative and gloomy? No, intense debates take place at many levels and not a day goes by without sustainable solutions being in the news. Enough attention, therefore, and visible enough but unfortunately not yet important enough given the lack of any urgency within society as a whole.

That's why we need leaders, initiators and pioneers for the transition. Businesses and government bodies that see the necessity, show what is possible and commit to making this energy transition, this mammoth task, happen. Show that, in the transition from old to new, a combination of savings, solar, wind, sustainable heat and yes, without doubt, gas too, is necessary and realistic.
This is the only way that the meaning of NIMBY can become "Now In My Back Yard".

Jan Hendrik Annema
Manager Renewable Gas Supply GasTerra.