From an early age, Pondera founder Hans Rijntalder knew he wanted to become an entrepreneur. While studying in America, he discovered his passion for the environment and climate. We were in conversation with Rijntalder about the energy supply of the future, Pondera’s new role and the importance of ‘steady but healthy’ growth.
By: Roy op het Veld.
What will the energy supply look like in 2050? Rijntalder doesn’t have to think long about that. ‘It will be largely based on electricity from wind and sun.’ Cars, heat pumps, but also industrial processes; a great deal will run on electricity in the future. ‘Green hydrogen will also be used by then, but mainly if electrification is too expensive,’ explains Rijntalder.
Green hydrogen requires renewably sourced electricity. More than 30% of the energy is lost during electrolysis, hence the preference for electricity over hydrogen. ‘We need to organise the transition in an energy-smart and efficient way,’ he adds.
Rijntalder hopes that energy supplies can eventually be completely renewable and preferably without nuclear power, the main reason being that there are no good solutions for dealing with nuclear waste. ‘Then we would be just burdening the future with problems again,’ he says.
Rijntalder, through Pondera, is determined to contribute to the renewable energy system of the future. The drive to become an entrepreneur was in Rijntalder from an early age. ‘For as long as I can remember, I wanted to be an entrepreneur,’ he shares. Being an avid sportsman taught him to be disciplined, and at a young age, he almost became a professional swimmer. ‘I read somewhere that a fellow villager was in the national team. I believed I could do it too, and I made it. Being goal-oriented came through sport.’ What’s so appealing about being an entrepreneur? ‘Being able to follow your instincts.’
After studying Public Administration, Rijntalder went to Indiana University in the United States. At the School of Public and Environmental Affairs, he found his passion: environmental science. ‘It was the time of the Club of Rome report. The study was entirely focused on that. It fascinated me, and I decided: this is what I want to do.’
The time is now
But before Rijntalder went into business, he first went into full-time employment. ‘Working for an international company also seemed like a good idea to me,’ he quips. ‘I lived abroad a lot and ended up at the consultancy firm Iwaco where I progressed into management. At one stage, I was asked to set up a new office in Enschede. That was basically entrepreneurship, just with other people’s money.’
Rijntalder pursued a career at Iwaco, which was later acquired by the engineering giant Royal Haskoning. ‘But before I knew it, I was 40 years old. I thought to myself: if I still want to be in business, I have to do it now. It may have been late, but the advantage is at that age you have a wealth of experience and a large network.’
It was through this personal revelation that Pondera was b orn. Rijntalder derived the company name from the English verb ‘to ponder’ or ‘to weigh’. ‘Environmental and climate projects are always about striking a balance between different interests. A wind turbine is the salvation of the planet for some, and a disruption to the living environment for others. At Pondera, we provide consultancy to successfully complete projects. That requires a relationship of trust with all those involved. Pondera has a ‘get it done’ mentality. ‘My goal is that clients enjoy paying our bills.’ Rijntalder believes that Pondera’s role will become increasingly wide-ranging, from developing wind and solar farms, to ‘integral energy issues’.
Under the leadership of Rijntalder and his fellow directors, Pondera will no longer just undertake projects to develop the supply of renewable energy, but above all help companies to meet their energy demand sustainably. ‘How much energy do you produce yourself? What do you purchase? Is there a need for cooling? Are batteries needed for storage? All the technology is thereThe required technology is readily available. Forging partnerships to provide those integrated solutions; that’s where I see Pondera’s future.’
Steady but healthy growth
Due to extreme fluctuations and uncertainties in the energy market, an increasing amount of companies want to future-proof their energy supply, Rijntalder observes. ‘The rise in energy prices, the limitations of capacity in the energy grid, the war in Ukraine; there are many reasons for companies to make their energy supply more sustainable and secure.’ For Rijntalder, the energy transition boils down to the sustainability projects of all companies and residential areas combined.
Pondera strives for ‘steady but healthy’ growth. No wild plans, because ‘that only distracts’, according to Rijntalder . ‘Choosing to grow autonomously in today’s exploding market means growing slower than the market itself. Organic growth simply has a limit in growth rate, especially with the current difficulties in finding new employees. Being ambitious is good, but you have to be able to bear the risks. Therefore, no takeovers or wild plans. We want to keep following our instincts for the time being.’