Anne Beaulieu and Peter van Kampen from Energysense are bursting with enthusiasm: ‘Energy-sense is a multidisciplinary knowledge platform, the only one of its kind in the Netherlands, that is for anyone who is committed to finding new sources of sustainable energy: researchers, business, the public sector, energy consumers, energy producers, students, the public...everyone.
nly if we work together can we come up with real energy solutions.’
Energysense (ES) is a large-scale northern research project in which researchers are building a databank with data on the energy consumption of 10,000 Dutch households and their attitudes towards this. Given that about 20% of direct energy consumption takes place at the household level, Enerysense can really make a difference.
The project is an initiative of the Energy Academy Europe and is realised by the University of Groningen. Anne Beaulieu is the Programme Manager of this energy transition platform, Peter van Kampen is the Engagement Officer. What is their favourite sustainable energy source?
Anne: ‘The ideal sustainable energy solution is one that meets the consumer’s needs and tal-lies with what the consumer’s environment has to offer. If you find this solution, the consumer will accept and commit to it for the long term. For instance, I know of a village in which there were farms with swimming pools. They were looking for green alternatives to heat the pools. They opted for biogas. You can produce biogas in a sustainable and environmentally friendly way from cow and pig manure.’
Peter: ‘The Groningen soil is rich in geothermal energy sources. In new developments in the area around Zernike they are increasingly using geothermal energy to heat houses and buildings. Geothermal energy is an environmentally friendly form of sustainable energy production that, in contrast to fossil fuels, will never run out.’
After an introductory phase of a year, the ES energy transition project was rolled out nation-wide in June. Three hundred households from the pilot phase are already providing the ES databank with active data. Recent recruitment campaigns have already resulted in hundreds of new participants, with which the overall entry file quickly is moving towards a 1,000 participating households. ES is now looking for an additional 9000 households. It is doing this through its appealing new website. but also through contacts and events, and, surprisingly enough in this digital era, house-to-house visits.
The house-to-house visits are random and are to inform people about what makes Energysense so interesting. We want to convince potential participants that by providing data about their energy consumption, they can contribute to new solutions for the sustainable society of the future. And we hope that the personal touch will generate long-term loyalty. If Energysense participants move house, we want to move with them.’
Anne: ‘Energy transition has not been considered quite so urgent in the last few years. Recent figures show that only 30 to 35% of the Dutch population think that energy con-sumption and sustainability are urgent issues. This is because the relationship between re-searchers and the public has deteriorated somewhat recently. The public is not particularly involved in new developments. With Energysense, the participating households are key. They are involved in new developments from the outset. We regularly ask about their ideas or wishes, and also tell them the results of our research. We hope that this personal approach will increase their commitment.’
The information from the participating households is collected by reading the data from smart energy meters. The participants are also sent questionnaires that request information about their home, heating system, appliances and the composition of the household. Together, this data gives a complete picture of energy use. Researchers, businesses and the public sector can use this data for energy innovations or to test these on consumers. The project dovetails perfectly with the trend in the Northern Netherlands of bringing groups into contact in an organic fashion in order to promote innovation. A win-win situation.
Anne: ‘Energysense not only generates up-to-the-minute data on energy consumption that researchers can use to develop new methods of energy use, it also gives researchers the opportunity to work together with households, businesses and colleagues from other disciplines and to test innovations to see if they are feasible.’
Peter: ‘In addition, ES generates excellent knowledge about designing and organizing pro-cesses, in particular in the field of data streams, (big) data services, archiving, security, and privacy covered by the principle of 'privacy by design' which means privacy is a concern at every step, not just added on later.’
Anne: ‘And possible other valuable knowledge arises in relation to the recruitment of participants and their involvement. The recruitment organized via a random sample is being developed, measured and documented in close cooperation with the Enegysense Scientific Board.’
Peter: ‘Finally ES is active cooperating with other long-term socio-technical research projects, such as LUKES partnership (University College London, UK and Suslab, Delft University).
A first research project from the pilot phase has already been completed. The Computer Sciences department of the University of Groningen researched how the data on energy production in households could be used to build a simulation of an office block in which renewable energy could be stored and used. This simulation will make it possible to test the use of appliances in modern office blocks that produce their own energy in the context of an energy market in which different parties are active and energy prices vary.
Peter: ‘This research led to publications and citations and new PhD research.’
Anne: ‘For students, Energysense provides a Living Lab that will speed up the process of setting up a new business to bring new knowledge to the market in the shape of a product or service. We give SMEs direct access to the latest knowledge and the opportunity to test products on consumers to see if they work. One of our team members focuses specifically on business development.’
The University of Groningen’s energy transition research is in keeping with the zeitgeist. At the Transfuture Festival last month on Zernike Campus, 21 organizations from the Northern Netherlands, including the University of Groningen and the UMCG, signed the Groningen Energy-Neutral in 2035 pact. This aims for energy consumption in Groningen to be CO2 neutral by the year 2035. The Festival public was called on to demonstrate a lasting commitment and to work together in the name of innovation. This was no surprise for Anne and Peter. ‘O nly if we work together can we come up with real energy solutions , indeed.’
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