Renewable energy as a life’s work

Lifetime Achievement Award for KWR Honorary Fellow Ad van Wijk

On 15 January, Ad van Wijk, an Honorary Fellow at KWR, received the Lifetime Achievement Award from the Clean Tech Business Club (CBC) – a recognition of his lifelong work in the field of renewable energy. The award was presented at a gala dinner during the CBC’s sixth conference in Abu Dhabi. “An enormous honour,” said Van Wijk. “And a recognition of what I have been able to contribute so far to the energy transition.”

The CBC is an international organisation that brings together companies with a focus on clean energy. With representatives from all over the world and headquarters in Paris, the focus is on the Middle East. Originally, the CBC started out with companies working in solar energy; it has since broadened its scope to include other forms of renewable energy such as hydrogen. “Before the conference, I was asked to serve as Honorary Chairman of the hydrogen hub at CBC,” Van Wijk says. “A request I was happy to agree to.”

Together we are stronger

Van Wijk was nominated for the CBC Lifetime Achievement Award by Paul van Son, the president of Dii Desert Energy, an organisation of companies dedicated to the energy transition in the Middle East and North Africa region. “At CBC, the members are mostly company CEOs, not the companies themselves,” says Van Wijk. “The individual people matter. The CBC motto is: ‘together we are stronger’. That makes sense: there is no single company, person or government who can get the energy transition done alone. We have to do the job together, learn and exchange experiences together, and support each other. That is absolutely essential.”

Both researcher and entrepreneur

Van Wijk has been an Honorary Fellow at KWR since 2018. Anyone who reads his CV sees that, in addition to his work as a respected researcher, he is also an experienced businessman. To his credit, he has put the hydrogen economy on the map from both directions. In 1984, Van Wijk was one of the first to found a renewable energy company – Ecofys, which later became a part of Econcern – with which he built, among other things, numerous solar and wind farms worldwide. Van Wijk later joined Delft University of Technology as Professor of Future Energy Systems. This combination of theory and practice is unique, and it has been very productive. In 2007, Van Wijk was named Dutch entrepreneur of the year, and CEO of the year one year later. “With a background in business, I spend a lot of my time in boardrooms. I also advise the European Commission about renewable energy. And I brought hydrogen to the Middle East. You can see a lot of major projects emerging in that area now.”

Linking energy and water

The Lifetime Achievement Award, which consists of a certificate, a statuette and a signed portrait of the recipient, does not mean that the renewable energy pioneer is now closing the door on his life’s work. Far from it. For example, he sees numerous openings to connect the energy and water sectors. “You make hydrogen from water and energy. If you want to do this in the desert, you have to use the sea as a source for that water. You use pipelines to transport the water inland. If you those pipelines bigger, you can solve the water shortage at the same time. You can also transport drinking and irrigation water. In the wake of hydrogen production, you get the opportunity to develop the entire desert. These are innovations to which I want to devote my energy for as long as I can.”