The energy market is in constant flux, but one thing is clear: even though new sources of fossil fuel are found regularly, they are, in the end, finite. UT is of the opinion that using energy in a smart way and using sustainable energy will be unavoidable in order to be able to meet the organization’s future energy demand and be less dependent on the energy market, with its heavily fluctuating rates.
Moreover, UT has a unique campus that offers all sorts of options as a living lab where research and innovations are tested, validated and demonstrated. A number of UT employees from different research groups and services want to make use of these options to create an energy-neutral campus. This memo is a first outline to this end.
Why create an energy-neutral campus?
UT is active in the field of energy saving and has a number of reasons for this:
- UT is a participant of the long-term agreement on energy efficiency (MJA) and has committed to a minimum reduction of energy use by 2% per year;
- As a social organization and bulk consumer in the region UT has a responsibility to responsibly organize its operational management and functions as an example in this respect;
- Research and education focus on finding solutions for social sustainability issues. UT also wants to apply and demonstrate this knowledge on its own campus;
- The campus can be viewed as a village where people work and live. As such, it is an ideal location for testing, presenting and applying research – not only for UT itself, but also for partners and innovative parties from the surrounding region.
- Moreover, UT can use special energy projects as PR tools: UT should be known as the foremost innovative and enterprising university that provides solutions to current social issues and applies them to its own campus;
- By acting as a launching customer, a faster transition from research to product becomes possible;
- As a result, UT can perpetuate its role as a partner for social and economic development of the region.
UT is making some headway in terms of saving energy. However, big gains in terms of saving and visibility/raising UT’s profile have not yet been made. We would like to focus on this in the time to come by cooperating with R&D, operational management and innovative partners from the region. The goals we want to achieve are:
- Gaining detailed insight into the energy consumption of all campus buildings (e.g. per 15 minutes) in 2014
- An energy-neutral campus by 2025
- A (partially) energy-autonomous campus in 2040
Even though it is of less importance for UT to become energy-autonomous, this does offer options for testing innovative solutions, such as autonomous microgrids, that are essential to global energy provision.
In order to achieve an energy-neutral campus, we want to focus on three levels:
- The first level is the campus as a living lab where we TEST research and innovations in a public environment. The living lab ensures quick interaction between research and practice, contributing to faster development of new products/services and acting as an incubator for innovations. It offers opportunities for validating research. We will also make the campus available as a living lab to third parties from the region.
- The second level is making the campus available as a living lab to DEMONSTRATE what we do. We will do so partially by applying it to our own operational management (see the next level), and partially by means of a demonstration project. A great example of this outside of campus, but within the region is the participation of the Computer Architecture for Embedded Systems department in Proeftuin Slim Net Lochem, a testing ground for smart grids .
- The third level is using the campus to APPLY best practices. This occurs in close collaboration with education and research. A number of current examples are a study into the application of sustainable disposables in collaboration with the Packaging Design and Management department, as well as the development of a method to determine UT’s CO2 footprint together with various researchers and users. UT offers itself as a launching customer to this end; not only for its own researchers, but also for other partners from the region. Apart from the ‘home-grown’ products and services, UT continues to look for other best practices that can be used to keep improving operational management. Moreover, UT needs to ensure that its basic operational management is and remains solid.
Several UT, GEI, FSC and HR-HSE researchers are already part of this initiative and are providing project plans. This is supervised by the current working group. A growth model is used: new projects that contribute to the objective can join up. Projects do not necessarily have to be executed on campus. We are currently looking into the option of setting up a wind energy park with other universities, where research can also be conducted. Moreover, Kitty Nijmeijer’s research into energy generated from salt level differences between salt and fresh water by means of membranes is also included.