Ms. Maria van der Hoeven, former Minister of Economic Affairs of the Netherlands, took charge today as the new Executive Director of the International Energy Agency (IEA) and vowed a focus on excellence as the agency strives to address the challenges of energy security and climate change in an era of unprecedented economic uncertainty.
“I am thoroughly convinced of the value of the IEA’s world-class expertise in meeting today’s energy challenges, and it is therefore vital that our expertise remain unrivalled, objective and focused on the right issues,” said Ms. Van der Hoeven, who was elected in March by the IEA Governing Board to succeed Mr. Nobuo Tanaka of Japan.
Ms. Van der Hoeven credited Mr. Tanaka with helping to build the agency’s profile. She said she would focus on further strengthening the IEA’s expertise and reach, promoting the use of the agency’s knowledge and experience to address energy issues impacting IEA Member countries, emerging economies and exporters of energy.
“This means bringing the organisation’s expertise and well-founded views to the table at highest levels, in support of policymaking as well as to inform discussions with other organisations and institutions,” she said.
Ms. Van der Hoeven served as Minister of Economic Affairs of the Netherlands from February 2007 to October 2010, during which time she demonstrated leadership on energy policy at the national, regional and global levels.
As minister, Ms. Van der Hoeven took the initiative in advancing several key aspects of her country’s energy policy, including unbundling, infrastructure modernisation and extension, developing the Dutch gas hub policy, and accelerating the development and use of renewables. She played an active role in European energy policy development, with a special focus on issues such as market liberalisation and energy security. She promoted the strengthening of regional ties by helping to set up the Pentalateral Forum, which establishes cooperation on electricity between Germany, France and the Benelux countries and which is evolving into a model for other regions of Europe.
On the world stage, Ms. Van der Hoeven contributed to international dialogue on both energy security and sustainability. She participated actively in both the Jeddah and London summits on the future of oil prices, and in 2009 she chaired the IEA ministerial meeting. As the responsible minister of a gas-exporting country that is regarded as Europe’s hub for trade in crude oil and oil products, she gained valuable insights on a broad range of energy-related issues and assembled an extensive international network and numerous ministerial contacts in both OECD and non-OECD countries.
Ms. Van der Hoeven is a fierce supporter of market principles, promoting transparency and establishing a level playing field. In administrative affairs, she managed to shorten bureaucratic procedures and cut through red tape to accelerate large-scale energy investments, including large-scale offshore wind power in the North Sea and the creation of the natural gas hub. It is her personal conviction that energy production and use should be made comprehensively more efficient and cleaner by improving energy efficiency, developing and using renewables, and producing and using energy otherwise generated in the cleanest possible ways, such as clean fossil fuels and carbon capture and storage.
Prior to becoming Minister of Economic Affairs, Ms. Van der Hoeven was Minister of Education, Culture and Science from 2002 to 2007. She was an elected member of the Netherlands House of Representatives of the States-General from 1991 to 2002. Until 1987 she was head of the Adult Commercial Vocational Training Centre in Maastricht, after which she served as head of the Limburg Technology Centre until 1991.
A native Dutch speaker, Ms. Van der Hoeven is fluent in English and speaks French and German.