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The climate is changing and we are all going to notice the consequences, all over the world. There are plenty of plans to prepare for this or even to reverse the process. But as an alderman for a medium-sized city in the Netherlands, what can you contribute to that? What is the impact of climate measures at a local level? Rik Thijs, alderman for climate & energy in Eindhoven, shares his dilemmas, choices, and his ambitions with us once every month.

I have a dilemma. A big dilemma, around innovation and the energy transition. As alderman of Eindhoven, I am, of course, proud of our innovative capacity. Here is where things are invented, where the future is built. And then there’s this big challenge of the energy transition. By 2050, the whole of Eindhoven will be free of natural gas, but the alternative sources of heat are not yet in place. So that’s a dilemma – or is it an opportunity?

I can only spend a euro once, especially when it comes to the tax money of our residents. When it comes to innovative projects, I can encourage, connect parties, and find subsidies, but the municipality is not an entrepreneur. I can’t ‘experiment’ with our residents’ money if we don’t know whether a specific alternative source of heat is the solution for the future. In my opinion, innovation does not lie in unlocking a few million for large projects, but in the role that the government takes in connecting and supporting small projects that can later be scaled up for the entire city, or even beyond.

As alderman, I would like to be inspired and informed when it comes to new developments. Preferably without prejudice or reservations. Let’s be a testing ground as a city, without throwing away tax money.

In some neighborhoods, we can already make houses natural gas-free by connecting them to heat networks. There are also people who think hydrogen will be the big solution for the energy transition. Others want to build a Thorium reactor. I’m not on that course. I don’t close my eyes to the developments of hydrogen, for example, but don’t yet see them as a large-scale solution for our neighborhoods in the coming years. Let alone that I, as alderman, would suggest building a reactor somewhere in Eindhoven. 2050 is getting closer every day. We cannot wait until 2045 with the energy transition, to tackle the transition of 110 neighborhoods within 5 years. So what do we choose?

And here’s a request. Who can inform me about the latest innovative developments related to the energy transition? I recently spoke to an enthusiastic owner of a hydrogen-powered bike. What other innovative projects and developments should I visit after the summer holidays? Together with all of you, I want to find out how we, as a municipality, can play a role in enabling the innovations that might ultimately offer a solution for Eindhoven. What are the connections we can make, which partnerships should we look in to? Hopefully, it will turn out to be a huge dilemma to choose from all the proposals we will receive from you.