Tarek Hopman

Geothermal Energy: The Solution to Accelerating the Energy Transition?

Geothermal Energy: The Solution to Accelerating the Energy Transition?
Tarek Hopman

Tarek Hopman

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The Netherlands is well-known for its greenhouse horticulture, which produces crops and flowers that are exported worldwide. However, this large-scale greenhouse production is responsible for 11% of the total CO2 emissions in the Netherlands. In search of a more environmentally sustainable future for the industry, geothermal energy, which involves using heat from deep underground, might be the answer. A highly promising initiative aiming to achieve this is Warmte Netwerk Westland (WNW), led by HVC, one of the leading waste processors together with Capturam, the other shareholder of WNW.

We spoke with Tarek Hopman, project lead at HVC/WNW, and asked him about the opportunities and challenges involved in realizing a sustainable future for the Dutch greenhouse horticulture sector.

Can you explain in simple terms what HVC does?

HVC is building and drilling the geothermal sources, while WNW is building the correspondent  heat network that will connect to greenhouse farmers. The aim is to reduce the amount of gas used by these farmers. We execute geothermal projects where we extract heat from 2-3 kilometers underground and then put it back into the ground in the form of saltwater. With this heat, we supply a district heating network that heats homes, buildings, and greenhouses.

How did you end up at HVC?

HVC was my client in my previous job. I have always been interested in sustainability and the world around me, which I suppose I got from my family. What excites me the most is the uncertainty and confusion surrounding the energy transition, which is why I believe I can make a significant impact.

I find HVC's ambition beautiful. As a semi-public waste company, they first generated electricity from waste. They then believed they had a role to play in the transition to a circular world without waste, and geothermal energy was their solution.

Heat infrastructure is a slow business. How do you ensure sufficient progress?

The dynamic and complex nature of the industry is the key, I’d say. In this industry, we deal with major issues that arise out of the blue, such as high energy prices and environmental problems like the nitrogen crisis. I'm at the heart of the energy transition, where I can make a real impact. My work is like a puzzle, where I need to find the right pieces to make it all work, even though I don't have all the answers. My work is a technical and creative challenge, but it's worth it because of the unique and innovative solutions we’re developing.

I also find it incredibly motivating that we work with all kind of contract sizes and offer a heat source of the future for the greenhouse growers that will be cost effective In the near future . This helps to ensure that the energy transition is accessible to everyone.

Is geothermal energy an expensive way to extract energy? Who finances it, and is it possible without government subsidies?

Geothermal projects are usually financed by multiple parties. Warmte Netwerk Westland is jointly financed by HVC, Capturam, bank loans, and government subsidies.

I believe sustainable energy can be generated without subsidies eventually. The infrastructure construction is a very large part of the total Investment. If you look at gas, the government paid for the infrastructure for gas years ago. Hence, ask yourself what you consider a subsidy.

You work with many different stakeholders with many different interests, such as the government, public-private partnerships, and horticulture farmers. How do you get everyone on the same page?

There are three things. First, it's crucial to promote a clear vision or dream to all stakeholders so that they can see how their efforts contribute to a larger purpose. Second, strong negotiation skills are essential because challenging conversations with stakeholders are likely to happen. Finally, patience is a virtue because making a real impact takes time and effort.

Lastly, what advice would you give to people in a similar role?

Once again, bring out a dream or goal that stakeholders can feel connected to. It's also crucial to listen carefully to which part of the dream resonates with a particular shareholder.

About the author

Tarek Hopman is Project Lead at HVC/WNW, specialized in geothermal projects. With a broad perspective on sustainability, Tarek is interested in the latest developments in this field. He approaches his work with a high level of energy, expertise, and enthusiasm, all with the goal of advancing the geothermal industry, particularly in the Westland region. Tarek is committed to creating a WarmteSysteem Westland by 2024.

Tarek Hopman

Tarek Hopman

Project Lead at HVC/WNW

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