In the landscape, differences between Niedersachsen and the Northern Netherlands are almost unnoticeable. On both sides of the border, biobased economy is in full development. A lot of research and talks take place in the Eems-Dollard regional association. Some important differences among the regions: farmer’s cooperatives in the Netherlands versus a more individual approach in Germany, resulting in a larger number of small initiatives in Germany, and a keener eye on practical applications. Research does play a role, but less fundamental than in the Netherlands.
Niedersachsen is active in bioenergy production, in particular biogas. And farmers pay much attention to the development of natural materials. And, while solar and wind energy as yet play a minor role in the Netherlands, in Germany almost every roof is covered with PV panels, and there are many more private wind turbines.
Werlte, in the middle of a rural area, is the location of Kompetenzzentrum 3N: Niedersachsen-Netzwerk Nachwachsende Rohstoffe.. It is small, and there is an adjacent Klimazentrum, which shows quite a number of practical innovative energy technologies, wood stoves and natural isolation materials like grass.
‘We have an office in Göttingen too, in the very South of Niedersachsen’, says Mrs. Dr. Marie-Luise Rottmann-Meyer, the centre’s head. ‘We inform, and promote networks among industry and farmers who want to produce biogas collectively. And we stimulate research on new materials and on better biogas production efficiency. In the region, we do quite some research on cascades of crop utilization (biorefinery), mostly in test farms. But we also cooperate with universities and Fachhochschulen in the region, and also with Bremen and Ghent universities. Our southern branch has a strong working relationship with Hochschule Hildesheim Göttingen.’
People have made the move toward a sustainable society already
‘We also tune production and use, ensuring that there will be no excess production of biogas, and that producers do not stand in each other’s way. Moreover, wind and solar energy are well represented in the region. People here support these developments wholeheartedly. One of the reasons why the federal government could propose the moratorium on nuclear power almost without meeting resistance from the population, was that in their minds, people made the change to a sustainable society already. That is why the practical realisation of this policy will not cause any major disturbances. Time and region are ready for such a move.’
As for biogas: it plays a major role in the region’s biobased economy. One third of German bio electricity originates in Niedersachsen, being produced in at least 1.300 fermentation units. Large producers have not yet entered this market, which is why biogas production can be done on a small scale. ‘This model might not work in the Netherlands, because large-scale organizations are much more prominent, there.’
‘We develop new beet varieties, not for sugar or fodder production, but specifically for biogas.’ Says Marie-Luise Rottmann. ‘Sugar beet has not been produced here as a crop for some 30 years, because growing maize made more sense economically. But now we develop a new production chain for beet, especially for biogas production, together with Nord Zucker and regional farmers. In this project, we cooperate with farmers in the neighbouring Dutch Drenthe province.’
Courtesy NOM, development agency for the Dutch Northern provinces