Energy is one of the most urgent issues of our time. The demand for energy is growing in response to increases in both the world’s population and the average standard of living. But at the same time the threat of climate change is obliging us to emit fewer greenhouse gases. This is why we need a revolutionary energy transition that will allow us to consume and produce energy more efficiently and more cleanly. This radical innovation calls for an investment in young people with knowledge of all aspects of energy, says Noé van Hulst, the director of Energy Academy Europe.
‘The energy transition is hugely important. Energy is not just any sector of the economy – the entire economy and therefore our whole society depends on it. An approach to the energy problem that is purely technology-driven, which is what you often see here, is therefore not enough. People must also understand and accept the technological solutions, and that calls for sociopsychological knowledge. Solutions must also have a viable business model and be legally sustainable. This requires a multidisciplinary approach. Our ideal is to educate what are known as ‘T-shaped students’, students who excel not just in one discipline but who can also make links between disciplines.’
‘Energy Academy Europe has been set up by two knowledge institutions – the University of Groningen and the Hanze University of Applied Sciences Groningen – and the Energy Valley business network, in partnership with GasTerra. The aim is to strengthen, link up and internationalize energy education. The EAE itself won’t be offering complete degree programmes or awarding degree certificates. What we will do, however, is bring to Groningen top people from teaching, research or business and organize extra teaching activities such as master classes and energy transition debates. Students who attend these and write essays about them will be able to earn extra EAE certificates, which will strengthen their position in the job market. And we won’t just focus on higher education. We’ll also be looking at senior secondary vocational education, for which we are working in partnership with regional training centres. This will allow us to cover the entire chain from senior secondary vocational education via universities of applied sciences and research universities to postgraduate education already offered by the Energy Delta Institute.’
‘Over the next ten years the EAE will invest some 100 million euros in energy education, research and innovation in order to establish an international centre of excellence. This money must be found proportionately by the knowledge institutions themselves, the business community and government bodies through cofinancing. We will bring together the university, business, government and social agencies. We’ll also further expand internationalization by means of an International Advisory Board that is to be launched this year.’
‘Groningen is a good place for energy research and education. Energy is a priority area at the University of Groningen, which already has various degree programmes and research institutes relating to energy. The planned University College for top students will also include an energy track. Together the University of Groningen and Hanze University of Applied Sciences Groningen offer a broad range of energy-related studies across all disciplines. Hanze, for instance, has just introduced a new Master’s programme in Renewable Energy.’
‘The University produces a good deal of top-level research in the field of energy, for example in the area of plastic solar cells, energy networks based on IT, and research into new materials that are essential for cleaner energy. But there is also leading sociopsychological, legal and economics research in the energy field that ties in with this. It is this interdisciplinary character that is Groningen’s great strength. And of course, there is a considerable expertise in the Northern Netherlands with regard to gas, including biogas and green gas. Gas-powered plants can be easily tapped into to compensate for fluctuations in the supply of wind or solar energy. This makes gas the ideal dance partner for sustainable energy.’
‘The Netherlands has been somewhat slow in recent years in seizing opportunities for this kind of research. But my philosophy is that you shouldn’t keep going over old ground. We still have a fantastic starting position. And we are and will continue to be a major player in the field of energy. We want to encourage the energy transition by boosting teaching, research and innovation here in Groningen. Sustainable energy has become a fully-fledged business, which means that outreach is a key part of our plans. We want to encourage and support the creation of new businesses here at the Zernike campus. Of course, nobody knows where and when the next major breakthrough will occur in, say, electricity storage. Technological development is an unpredictable affair. But I firmly believe that if we create the right conditions here, good things can happen. Who knows – perhaps ‘green Google’ will materialize here in Groningen!’
Noé van Hulst is director of Energy Academy Europe
The 51st edition of KEI week is devoted to the theme of sustainability. On Monday 12 August, around 6,000 KEI participants and KEI leaders were handed cloth bags instead of plastic ones and a KEI wristband with a chip enabling digital payments. A vegetarian...
Recent studies into the relationship between decreases in sea ice in the Arctic and ice-cold winters in the mid-latitudes, like the Polar Vortex cold waves in North America, seem to suggest that such a connection does indeed exist. However, the mechanisms...
Thursday 15 August marks the start of the 10-day Noorderzon Performing Arts Festival, held in our beautiful Noorderplantsoen park. Young and old will return home from the festivities slightly smarter than they were before, thanks to the ‘University...