Speech by Sharon Dijksma, Minister for the Environment, at the Living Lab event ‘Zero emission public transport’, Eindhoven, 18 May 2016

Ladies and gentlemen,
Eindhoven has been in the limelight a lot recently.
The city was heaving with excitement two weeks ago. On the last day of the season, PSV won the league title. It was an edge-of-your-seat happening.
And an enormous surprise.
It shows that elite sport is unpredictable.
But also that you can only achieve the highest goal if you have confidence in the outcome. Ambition alone is not enough. It’s about teamwork, effort and self-belief.
So it’s great to be in Eindhoven today.
A champion city that’s also a frontrunner in zero-emission transport.
Thanks to the provincial authorities that put out an ambitious tender for public transport in Southeast Brabant.
And thanks to Hermes, the company that’s taken up the challenge.
We’re talking about the largest zero-emission public transport licence in Europe!
From December, 43 new buses will be operational in Southeast Brabant, giving the region the largest zero-emission fleet in the country.
In the Netherlands, there are 13 electric buses and two hydrogen buses on the roads now. So this step here in Eindhoven will really get things moving.

Public transport is about to enter the energy transition.
It’s ready to hit the road.
And it’s about time.
Because transport is responsible for a quarter of emissions worldwide, and the sector is growing fast.
If we want to reduce emissions and improve air quality in cities, we need to dó something about transport.

The Netherlands sees this as an opportunity.
We want to lead the international community in intelligent, sustainable transport.
Last month I took a key step to achieve that. I made a deal with the regional authorities responsible for contracting public transport. We’ve agreed that the entire national bus fleet will have zero emissions in 2025. This requirement will be included in all bidding procedures, helping to steer things in the right direction.
The deal also sends a clear message to market players, and helps them make greener investment decisions. The aim is to create more scope for green innovation.

And we’re not just focusing on the Netherlands.
I believe we could make better use of the opportunities provided by the EU.
There’s no reason that a deal like this can only work in the Netherlands.
Who says stimulating zero-emission transport through public contracts wouldn’t work just as well in other member states?
Greater demand makes it more attractive for transport companies and bus manufacturers to invest in zero-emission vehicles.
So I’m talking with the Commission about scaling up our agreement, as a model for the EU.
The EU can also stimulate the market in other ways.
By taking away uncertainty, for instance.
There are plenty of unknowns at this stage.
For instance, how long will the batteries of electric buses last? This kind of unknown is often included in the price, making the buses more expensive than they need to be.
A European guarantee fund could act as insurance and help steer things in the right direction.
If battery lifespan turns out to be shorter than expected, a company could apply to the guarantee fund for compensation. Taking away this financial uncertainty would lower prices and boost innovation.
Jointly with other member states, we’re investigating the possibilities of such a revolving fund.

I’d be interested to hear your views on this.
Your expertise is highly relevant.
Zero-emission transport cannot be imposed by government decree. It demands public-private collaboration, especially in this transitional stage.
There are pioneers and there are parties who’d rather wait and see.
What they all need is knowledge. But new insights depend on actual road-testing.
And that’s exactly what this pioneering region is doing.
I value your work in generating new knowledge, and your willingness to share it with others. The living lab is a great initiative.
It will make the market stronger, create team spirit and boost our confidence in a good outcome.
And then, as the people of this city can tell you [since two weeks ago ...], the sky’s the limit!
So I wish you every success, and look forward to more great initiatives from you in the future.
Thank you.