‘Eneco is a rather unique company,’ so opens the interview with Environmental Specialist Marin van Regteren. ‘Just take the fact that, with our One Planet strategy, we are aiming higher than the 1.5°C global warming limit recommended by the UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC).
But with that said, what I’m particularly pleased about is the open letter that we, Young Eneco employees, sent to the Eneco Board, boldly stating that not only do we want to expedite the implementation of our One Planet strategy, but we also wish to expand it. Increasing biodiversity in all our activities also has an important role to play here. And that’s where I come into the picture!’
Ecology is embedded in the Eneco DNA.
Impact: that’s what it’s all about
Marin van Regteren is broadly educated in various fields, including academic studies such as oceanography (the science that studies the physical and biological properties of the global oceans and oceanic phenomena) and marine sciences (the branches of science that study the sustainable management, use and protection of natural resources in marine, coastal and freshwater sites). Marin: ‘Scientific studies and knowledge are extremely important, but to be able to translate them into practice and make a real impact is something I truly enjoy doing. That’s why Eneco is the perfect fit for me. Never a dull moment!’
Hitting the biodiversity jackpot from day one
‘I joined Eneco in April 2020 and the timing couldn’t have been more perfect,’ says Marin. Public thinking about sustainability, nature conservation and ecology is changing rapidly. NGOs as well as the government, provinces, municipalities and local communities are stepping up efforts to protect the environment, which is good for nature, but we, as Eneco, need to lead the way. In my work, I focus on biodiversity, nature-inclusive onshore and offshore construction, and research into the ecological impact of our activities. My role also involves setting up research projects with external ecological specialists and carefully reviewing their reports in order to apply the lessons learned to future projects or to set up (follow-on) research projects, if necessary. Another aspect of my job is to translate the importance of research to our technical specialists. And vice versa to researchers, in order to ensure that the high safety requirements for offshore projects are applied to research projects. The great thing about Eneco is that there’s a lot of understanding for this.’
Science is important but translating it into real-world impact is a wonderful challenge.
Solar and offshore wind farms
One of my areas of interest is researching practices that help promote healthy biodiversity in solar farms. How do we deal with insects, ecosystem engineers, birds, and their breeding behaviour, and how do we actively manage green spaces and mow at the right time? Another important consideration is the promotion of marine life around the towers of our offshore wind farms. Research has clearly shown that if we install the appropriate type of rock armour around these towers, it will create a hard substrate ecosystem of anemones, starfish and small fish, which in turn will attract other fish and crabs. Or what about flat oyster beds? With additional care and attention, they can self-sustain over time. This is supported by the initial scientific research results. In Luchterduinen, a wind farm in the North Sea that delivers power to the Dutch Railways, among others, we see an explosion of marine life around the wind turbines – which is incredible for the natural environment! Using a bird radar and observation cameras set up at this location, we study the behaviour of different bird species, such as their flying height, speed and direction. The aim is to study their avoidance behaviour around turbine blades. The government currently has appropriate measures in place to mitigate bird collision risk, such as shutting down onshore wind turbines during bird or bat migration periods. When we have a better understanding of the behaviour of bird and bat populations, we, too, will be able to shut down wind turbines during peak bird migration periods. To that end, we are working with the government, research institutions and our Eneco colleagues. These are all good examples of the impact we have been able to collectively achieve.’
Porpoises, bird migration and bats
Marin van Regteren: ‘I am also involved in research on porpoises. Our findings suggest that the noise level produced by driving turbine towers on offshore wind farms can have an adverse impact on the porpoise population in the North Sea. Research shows that if we reduce the maximum noise level and allow the mammals to calmly swim out of the area, we can mitigate the impact on them.’
Together with Holland Solar, the representative of the Dutch solar power sector, and a number of wind power companies, we are currently exploring different approaches for promoting biodiversity at almost twenty solar farms, such as identifying the best orientation, optimising their water permeability and defining the best management strategy for grazing, mowing and removal of vegetation. We are also involved in the research at the Maasvlakte 2 wind farm where, in collaboration with nature conservation organisations and local residents, we track bird movements so we can adjust the operating hours of our turbines accordingly,’ says the enthusiastic ecologist.
Eneco is the perfect fit for me as an ecologist. Never a dull moment!
The expanding role of government and society
‘Dutch laws protect the natural environment and the terrestrial and aquatic ecosystems,’ says Marin. ‘When knowledge about the ecosystem is lacking, the precautionary principle – i.e. a worst-case scenario – is applied. In addition to the government, NGOs, ordinary citizens and local residents are increasingly stepping up efforts to protect the environment. Take the North Sea, for example. It is intensively used for shipping, fishing, oil and gas extraction, and the production of green energy. Moreover, parts of the North Sea are protected nature reserves, which are classified as Natura 2000 sites. The scarcity of space on the North Sea has led to tension between the activities. Thus, in a bid to find a balance between the various interests, the North Sea Agreement was adopted into law. As part of this Agreement, renewable energy for shipping will play a significant role in the future energy system, and Eneco would like to contribute to this.’
Eneco’s ecological DNA
‘Ecology is becoming increasingly important,’ concludes Marin. ‘Meaningful conversations among colleagues are being had on our Intranet, ecological innovation will be an essential requirement in a new tender, a Transition Director has been appointed to the Board and there are discussions among Board members about engaging an ecological assessment agency in the future. My job is so much more gratifying and relevant than I could have imagined. Ecology will be part of Eneco’s success, and it is embedded in our DNA!’
Click here for the Eneco Annual Report 2021 website.