Dr. Jacob Klimstra is a researcher and engineer with over 50 years of experience in energy, power plants and economic research and currently offers consultation expertise regarding energy, co-generation and engine technology. 

Question: Could you please tell us about yourself and your work?

Jacob: After graduating with my bachelor’s electrical and electronic engineering with honours from the Technical College of Leeuwarden in the Netherlands, I joined Gasunie Research in Groningen in 1970 to work on pulsating combustion, vibration-based gas turbine diagnostics as well as process measurement and control. I subsequently studied mechanical engineering at the University of Southampton, United Kingdom, where I graduated in 1984 with a Ph.D. which included a thesis on the optimisation of reciprocating engine-compressor combinations. Afterward, I worked on the introduction and technical improvement of cogeneration of electricity and heat. During that process, I wrote many international papers on subjects related to energy use and engines and gave numerous presentations. I also converted diesel buses and boats to natural gas.

From 1993 to early 2000, I was Head of Department of Industrial Gas Applications at Gasunie Research. In that capacity, I studied modern management techniques and implemented these in research management. This resulted in an additional activity as part-time lecturer in management techniques with a business school associated with the University of Groningen. From August 2000 till October 2009, I was employed by Wärtsilä Power Plants, as senior specialist on energy issues and engine-driven power systems. At Wärtsilä, I wrote and presented about 100 papers on energy supply, cogeneration and engine development. I also prepared and gave many seminars all over the world about energy use and the economy, engine technology and emission reduction.

I received the Richard Way Memorial Prize for my Ph.D. thesis, the Van Oostrom Meyjes Prize from The Royal Netherlands Institution of Gas Engineers for my work on cogeneration and received five Oral Presentation Awards and the Distinguished Speaker Award from SAE. In September 2000, I received the ICE Division Speaker Award from the American Society of Mechanical Engineers. In 2003, I became recognised as Registered Energy Advisor. In January 2005, I received the 2004 Quality Award from Wärtsilä. I was granted a Best Paper Award at the 2007 PowerGen Europe Conference in Madrid. At the PowerGen Europe 2008 conference, I gave a keynote presentation on the future of electricity generation. In June 2010, I received the Cogen Europe Lifetime Achievement Award.

Q: You have spent over 50 years as a researcher and engineer in the energy sector. Could you describe your work on the integration of renewables and ensuring optimal use? 

Renewable energy sources all have an issue with volatility, and I have reported and taught about technologies to allow a maximum integration of renewables.

Q: Why should the Netherlands push for replacing gas heating with electric heating on its path to a clean energy future?

Ambient temperatures in The Netherlands are quite moderate and therefore electric heat pumps have a good coefficient of performance. Using renewable electricity directly in a heat pump is a factor 6 more effective than using the hydrogen route and burning hydrogen in boilers.

Q: Now, why do you consider the cost of renewable energy to be one of the primary barriers or challenges the Netherlands faces on its path to clean and affordable energy?

The Netherlands currently use natural gas and that is a factor 5 to 10 cheaper to produce than renewable energy. One cubic meter of natural gas is about 10 kWh and it costs about the same as 1 kWh of electricity.

Q: Finally, what specific steps can the Netherlands take to help the way towards 100 percent renewable energy? And what progress do you foresee for the region in the coming years?

It will not be easy. Going for 90% renewables is a factor 10 easier. We will progress to having more renewable energy, but challenges will emerge after  50%. Cheap energy is the engine of the economy.


Photo by Martijn Baudoin on Unsplash