‘I understand that opponents say: put those windmills out to sea. Only, we won’t make it with that ‘


This wind farm on the North Sea can be seen from Oosterschelde in Zeeland.Image Getty Images

Gaastra no longer needs to tell anyone that the energy transition is a challenge. But just to be on the safe side, he gives the reporter a graph showing how much energy the Netherlands uses and which part of it is sustainable. ‘A huge gap’, he points out the gap between the two lines. “That must be filled.”

Most of the green energy that will be added up to 2050 will come from offshore wind farms. But also from wind on land and sun. Onshore wind is not an easy subject, says Gaastra. In the past, the national government determined for the provinces how many windmills they had to build. ‘That went well sometimes, but sometimes it didn’t. Then it was like driving a steamroller over local communities. ‘

We no longer wanted this, says Gaastra. ‘So we thought, can’t it be organized from the bottom up anymore? This resulted in regional energy strategies, with provinces and municipalities more in control. ‘

The fact that the ministry is now starting a campaign feels like the big brother must be brought in to overcome the opposition.

‘If the energy strategies have to be saved with a few advertisements in the newspaper, it will not go well. But there was a need for the national government to make itself heard. ‘

How will you convince the opponents?

‘I think this group is quite large. When I cycle around my hometown of Utrecht, it doesn’t matter whether I ride to the north, south or east; everywhere I see a banner somewhere of someone who does not want large windmills.

‘Many people say: put those wind turbines out to sea. I understand that well. We will not make it with that alone. Nor do I have the illusion that we will convince every opponent. But it helps if people are given information and can assess what the bigger picture looks like. ‘

A great aim, but large groups, also with a heart for the climate, do not want any windmills in the area. Again, how do you convince them?

‘I hope everyone understands that you can’t say no to everything. We can also agree that we will use less energy. That we no longer do many activities. That we are saying goodbye to part of the business world. That we prescribe a maximum of one car per family. That we are going to live smaller. As long as we don’t want that, we have to get the energy from somewhere. The more options you reject, such as onshore wind and also biomass, the less you will be left with. ‘

The campaign states: everyone does something. That sounds pretty soft. Shouldn’t you say much more clearly: there will probably be a mill near you and perhaps also around the nature reserve where you enjoy walking so much?

‘Most people see the need for sustainability. It mainly concerns a loss of a clear view of the field, where all of a sudden these industrial things will appear. Above all, we have to look where you best place them. For example parallel to highways. Already happening, in Brabant along the A16 for example. Still has an impact, people also live there. Clustering wind turbines in a smart way is not possible everywhere, but we are trying. ‘

This sounds like planning by the national government. Are you not saying: we are going to do it again?

‘No, then you will get that steamroller again. It is something together. You cannot oversee a lot from The Hague. In order to fit in wind turbines as effectively as possible, we need local administrators and citizens. ‘

In the past corona year, meeting in halls was not possible. As a result, there was hardly any interaction. That seems to me to be a problem for the feeling of participation.

‘This is a real problem indeed. We had not calculated. It is now complicated for municipalities to hold information evenings. If there are sixty to eighty people in one call sitting down, I can imagine that a random resident would soon think: what good is this to me. ‘

Why not delay a few months? Soon everyone will be vaccinated and the rooms will be open again.

‘I don’t think regions themselves want that either. Most of them will be ready on 1 July. ‘

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