Interview - Minke Goes

Minke Goes, New Business Manager at Essent

“Making smart choices to ensure our energy transition has impact”

Minke Goes (32) wants to make an impact. This is something many people might want, but for this alumna of the Master’s Program in Sustainable Energy Technology it seems to be actually achievable. As New Business Manager at Essent, she is occupied with the energy transition on a daily basis. It is a subject that has long made her heart beat faster: “It was the first subject in my degree program that I felt an internal drive for. My thoughts were: ‘I really want to understand this, I want to contribute to it.’”

For Minke, it all started with the Science, Business and Innovation program at VU Amsterdam. This is a broader Bachelor’s program about technological innovations, societal and political impact, and entrepreneurship. “Due to this broad approach, engineering was only a small part of the program. Within the engineering part there were two tracks, energy science and life science, for each of which the method of innovation was entirely different. I knew very early on that the energy transition was what I wanted to be involved with.”
Why? “On the one hand, because of the technology and the innumerable solutions it offers. Working on the energy transition involves innovation, technology, creating opportunities, looking for solutions. On the other hand, there are political, societal and financial aspects to the subject. What really makes my heart beat faster is the fact that it’s a subject with which you really can have an impact. Doing something good for the world while also working on so many aspects that come together – I find that enormously interesting.”

After her Bachelor’s Minke wanted to acquire more subject knowledge, and she wanted to go into the energy transition in much more depth. She ended up in Eindhoven, studying towards her Master’s degree in Sustainable Energy Technology at the department of Mechanical Engineering. She started in 2013 and graduated in 2015.

Three steps behind
The transition to the Master’s program was quite a challenge. “I had a limited engineering background and had, for example, never even used Matlab, which is more or less the holy grail at TU/e. It felt as though I was three steps behind the rest when I started, but I was extremely motivated to make a success of it. Fortunately I ended up with a group of super-involved and helpful fellow students. We were all from different backgrounds, which meant we could help each other well. And then there were the lecturers, who seemed to like nothing better than sharing their passion with others, and who were only too happy to spend an extra hour of their time helping a struggling student.”
Minke looks back very fondly at her time at TU/e. “When I think back to TU/e, my thoughts are immediately filled with that wonderful atmosphere. The number of students in the program wasn’t particularly large – about forty people in total, I’d say. My specialization was electrical engineering. I found (and still find) it so thrilling that the electricity system is set to change completely through the integration of sustainable and decentralized generation. That is why this aspect has my full focus.”

Team Energy
“The thing that I still missed at university when I started out in Eindhoven was exchanging ideas about the energy transition with other students, lecturers and the business community, outside the classroom as well. I believe that the best ideas are born not in an academic setting, but rather in an informal setting such as the pub. Ultimately, a group of like-minded students set up Team Energy, which is still alive today. It is really neat that we could set that up and, in that way, have been able to leave a legacy.”

To work
After completing her Master’s degree, Minke wanted to go to work on the energy transition. She started working in consultancy, at Ecofys, a research and advisory firm that helps businesses and authorities answer strategic questions in the energy transition.
“I consciously chose that because consultancy gives you insight into various businesses and authorities as well as what drives them in the energy transition. Ecofys’s mission was ‘sustainable energy for everyone’, which aligned perfectly with my own mission and interests, the energy transition and how we can make this possible and even accelerate it. I worked on many different projects, from smart grids to carbon capture and storage to hydrogen. I learned the substance of the work, and how to do analyses. I also learned to give presentations, collaborate with customers, stakeholder management, communications, project management – the job was broad.”

Switch to Essent
After four years with Ecofys, Minke was ready for the next level. She ended up at Essent, in their strategy department. “On my first day, I was asked the question: ‘What role should Essent play in heat transition?’ Instead of having to stay in an ‘ivory tower’ I was sent into the market. It was clear to me early on that Essent needed to progress even further, a view that was broadly shared within the organization. I identified a chance to help set up a new business unit, and I grabbed the opportunity with both hands.”

 

Working on the energy transition
As part of a team of more than 15 people in the Energy Infrastructure Solutions business group, Minke now works on solutions for the energy transition. “My focus is on public tenders, for example sustainable heat and cold networks in new construction projects. I talk to many parties: municipalities, real estate developers, and other partners. They are enthusiastic about what Essent has to offer. What’s so neat about Essent is that it is so open to collaboration. The challenge the energy transition confronts us with is so enormous that we simply have to do it together – we do not need to fight for our own share of the pie. We want to look for solutions together and ensure that all end customers receive affordable and reliable sustainable energy. This approach, this vision, suits me well.”

Mix and balance
“What’s the ideal implementation of the energy transition? In my view, we must solve as much as we can locally. By keeping energy close to home you lose less, are less dependent on others and, more particularly, are more aware of energy generation. At the same time, we cannot solve everything locally. We must also be able to find a good balance by investigating how we can import and export energy together with other countries. You will need both sides of this coin.”

“One of my biggest concerns is that we might end up mainly making popular choices that look smart in the short term (‘putting out fires’) and avoid the more difficult questions for too long. We – and the politicians – must resist simply following the latest craze. It’s a fact that every source of energy has detrimental effects, and this includes geothermal energy, solar panels and wind turbines. Ultimately, though, we must progress, and we must make smart choices. It’s fine to make claims like ‘we will be a climate-neutral city by 2030’, but what does that actually mean? And what will the impact on society be? All too often, we choose to make headlines while, instead, we should be looking at the question of how we can ensure that we have as much impact as possible with the resources we have.”

Staying involved
Minke can talk about the energy transition for hours. She also regularly shares her knowledge with people at TU/e. Her team, for example, supervises graduating students and she still visits events and workshops arranged by Team Energy. “I like to help and contribute my thoughts when it comes to initiatives implemented by Team Energy and the university. That keeps me involved.”

Time machine
Looking forward, how does she see her own future? “At Essent, I am where I belong. The energy transition still has a long time to go. I’m very curious to see what things will look like in 2030. I sometimes feel I’d like to step into a time machine to go see how far we will have progressed by then, and what works. I have a one-year-old daughter and often ask myself what kind of world she will be living in. That question has gained significance for me since I brought a child into the world. Apart from that, I have no idea what my life will look like in ten years. Seizing opportunities and ensuring that my work gives me energy – to me, these things are most important.”