Mirra Luijten works as an Energy & Environment Consultant at EGEN, the part of PNO Group that focuses on the themes of energy, environment and mobility. Her permanent work location is the PNO office in Rijswijk, the Netherlands. Mirra started at EGEN as an intern early in 2021, and commenced work there as a consultant six months later. Since then, she has churned out quite a volume of work and has become passionate about tackling complex projects.
Among other things, Mirra has specialised in impact assessment services, which include life-cycle assessments, CO2 calculations and cost-benefit analyses. Late last year, when EGEN had to start setting up a number of project proposals for the European CEF Transport funding programme, Mirra carried out the cost-benefit analyses. ‘These analyses weigh up the financial costs against the socioeconomic benefits,’ she explains. ‘By using established methods to assign a monetary value to those benefits, we can quantify them. This creates a clear picture of a project’s impact, and it’s easy to compare projects on the basis of their impact.’
Quite a challenge
One of the CEF Transport grant applications that EGEN handled concerned a project to establish alternative fuelling stations throughout Europe. The more we transition to alternative fuels, the less we will rely on fossil fuels, and this is entirely in line with European climate policy. Mirra: ‘The reduction of CO2 emissions and air pollution are important socioeconomic benefits of this type of project. We have to express those benefits in monetary terms in the cost-benefit analysis. I worked together with a colleague on this, and it was quite a challenge because it had to be both correct and realistic. The costs also have to be taken into account, such as for the realisation and maintenance of the fuelling stations. This is also quite an exercise, since those costs vary between countries. For example, each country has different land rental prices and alternative fuel purchase and sale prices. When it comes to this kind of project, my core task is endless calculations!’
The calculations also had to be done within a CEF Transport template. Unfortunately, because it was a recently developed template, it still had a few teething problems. ‘It was very frustrating,’ says Mirra. ‘You’re stuck using the template but you can see things going wrong with the calculations. You keep trying to get it right, because it has to work somehow… and it takes up far too much time. However, we were fortunately able to report this to CINEA, the coordinating agency of CEF Transport. They provided us with a solution that moved us forward – even though we’d actually come up with it ourselves. In any case, it’s rather a hassle and not much fun!’
One of the things that Mirra does like is the quantification of socioeconomic benefits in the cost-benefit analysis. ‘Although I spend a lot of time on calculations and figuring things out, it’s the puzzle-solving aspect that really appeals to me. I also like the idea of making tangible those gains that benefit the economy and society – gains that you can normally only describe as concepts. It’s even better if you can make them measurable and mutually comparable, so that the party who evaluates the grant applications can actually make an informed assessment. It may seem like you’re just putting price tags on various types of impact, but you’re actually working to fully clarify the sustainability aspects, and that’s something I’m happy to commit to in doing this work.’
Towards the finish line
Fortunately, Mirra was not the only one working on this project; she was one of the five members of a dedicated EGEN team. Naturally, their work included writing the entire grant application. ‘The closer the deadline came, the tenser it got. But we stayed motivated as a team, and worked steadily towards the finish line. Personally, I know how to keep everyone’s spirits up during this process. We went for it together, and the client was also very enthusiastic, so we met the deadline with ease. And after the submission, we concluded it all properly with team drinks.’