Sander van Hees' story

Sander van Hees (34, Amsterdam) is a group leader at Witteveen+Bos in the area of environment and planning law and the climate. He and his team of lawyers concern themselves with legislation regarding the physical environment that surrounds us. Because a lot needs to be arranged and agreed on before any construction work can start.

Nature protection issues

‘I studied law and then started teaching; finally, I wrote a PhD thesis on innovative offshore energy generation. I studied the legal issues surrounding wave power, blue energy and tidal energy in depth. What can go where? Which nature protection issues do you need to consider? And which sustainable projects can you obtain a subsidy for? Once I had my PhD, I was curious about how the interplay of interests and regulations works in practice. Witteveen+Bos is a great place to work for me, because it’s all about interdisciplinary working at the heart of society. Incidentally, I also still do a bit of work at Utrecht University. Theory and practice strengthen one another.’

Laws and regulations

‘Constructing an offshore wind farm is a technical operation, but so much needs to be investigated before any construction work can start. Are there any protected animal species there? What about fishing? And water quality? What is stated in the site selection decision? As lawyers, we bridge the gap between technology and society. Wind farms, solar parks and heat networks aren’t stand-alone entities; they’re part of a local environment and part of national and European energy policies. Bringing together the different interests – that’s what Witteveen+Bos excels at. Regulations and government policy dictate that all interests need to be considered. Only in harmony with the local environment can we achieve successful projects. We help the initiators of a project in considering its prerequisites, and we also help the government formulate sustainable policy.’

Energy transition

‘By 2050, the Netherlands has to emit 95 per cent fewer greenhouse gases than in 1990. We’re moving in the right direction, but there are huge challenges ahead. The biggest is lack of space. Improving water quality, protecting nature, promoting action, building sustainably heated homes: we want a lot, but the available space above and below ground is limited. You can hardly ever make a decision that pleases all stakeholders. Fortunately, the willingness to work together is high. Many organisations and companies are involved with climate objectives and technical knowledge is growing. In the coming years, we’ll see a major catch-up effort, with lots of sustainable energy generation in the North Sea and gas-free heating in neighbourhoods.’


'As lawyers, we bridge the gap between technology and society'


- Sander van Hees -