seminar Audit Energy

Opening seminar 30 November 2023 EU Network Audit Energy by Vice President Barbara Joziasse of the Netherlands Court of Audit
(Marriot Hotel, The Hague)

Welcome to all participants at this seminar with such a fascinating topical theme.

My name is Barbara Joziasse, and I am Vice President, member of the board, of the Netherlands Court of Audit.

Before shaping the future today, we need to pay homage to the enthusiasm at the European Court of Auditors (ECA) and our colleagues form Bundesrechnungshof, the SAI of Germany. Together we have initiated this meeting and the collaboration around energy auditing with a focus on performance auditing.

We live in turbulent times. Many of our countries are still processing with energy crisis measures, so this theme will come back at various discussions. The main theme of this seminar will however be on auditing plans, execution and expenditures of energy transition policies.  

NCA has had a tradition in auditing climate and environment policies. I’ll mention a few:

  • In 2012 we audited government actions for Climate Adaptation. In those days NCA concluded that the absence of a comprehensive climate adaptation policy was a risk for The Netherlands and its preparedness for the consequences of climate change;
  • In the year 2020 the NCA concluded in an audit that fiscal subsidy for hybrid and electric vehicles was a relatively expensive instrument to reduce carbon dioxide emissions. Consequently, the government changed its policy;
  • After auditing wind energy projects, energy saving policy and geothermal production of warmth, we looked into government expenditures in the domain of climate and energy transition. We concluded that the cabinet does not have insight into how much and for what purposes exactly public money is spent.
  • And recently we published the audit report “Beyond the dykes”. Government should  - also in line with the relevant EU Directive  - implement its own policy to do more than just reinforce the dykes to make our country water resilient, by e.g. reducing the impact of flooding behind water barriers in spatial planning, and crisis management policies. 

So for NCA I may conclude topics climate and energy belong to our top-priorities. We all know that energy transition is one of the biggest challenges of our time with a huge  impact on our societies. That’s the reason why we have a dedicated audit team. However, I want to emphasize that SAIs are not IPCC or other climate experts. There are nowadays so many reports on climate change – many of them also addressed to Parliament. So we have to think through what is our added value in this fast developing area.

We have not only expanded our team but also our audit toolbox by adding ex-ante and ex-durante auditing techniques. The energy transition is being shaped today. Innovation is key. Should we wait until after implementation of policies before we delve into studying their effectiveness? 

Innovation needs space to find solutions. Innovation by nature doesn’t always lead directly to concrete, effective and efficient solutions. Mistakes are made. There is no guarantee for success. Two steps forward, one step backward. Science shows that costs per solar panel unit or per wind turbine have dropped dramatically over the last decade. Could we have predicted this 20 years ago, and... is it safe to assume that we can apply this reality to new solutions, like hydrogen power or Carbon Capture Storage? Technology that doesn’t yet translate to big numbers of users. These are performance auditing dilemma’s for SAIs. 

My statement for today is: SAIs have an indispensable role in moving towards truly effective energy transition policies. This transition requires us to also take into account that audit moving targets, moving realities. Reality is shaped while we audit. Innovation needs space. How can we SAIs make a true contribution to our societies? Our independent position is crucial.

Our joint efforts today, our network can hopefully help us to find solutions, an intelligent and intelligible approach. I look forward to exchanging ideas with our Dutch guest speaker Kees Vendrik, chairman of the National Climate Platform. He certainly can  inspire us this morning.

I wish you a fruitful seminar !