Tag Archives: Energy Transition

This is what a energy-neutral Leiden look like.

Nowadays it’s a trend for every country, company, organisation and municipality to set as ambitious goals on sustainability as possible. Most of the time however, those goals are put on the back burner. The methods to reach the goals are kept vague and the goals are often not reached in time. The municipality of Leiden seems to be going down a different path.

Leiden also set some ambitious goals on sustainability. One important goal is to realise a netto energy-neutral Leiden by 2050. But, directly after setting this goal, the municipality of Leiden and the Dutch ministry of infrastructure and environment commissioned several companies and organisations to join hands and to develop an energy transition map of Leiden and its surroundings. This map shows a scenario of what Leiden would look like if this goal indeed would be reached by 2050. You can check out the map below.

map-leidenFor a bigger version of this map click here

This map clearly shows that the transition to an energy-neutral Leiden requires quite some rigorous changes. I’ll discuss the two most comprehensive ones here:

1. Complete new heating infrastructure

To reach the goal set for 2050, Leiden and its surroundings will need to get rid of fossil gas used for heating. Instead, there’s a need for a completely new heating infrastructure, fuelled by geothermal heat ánd waste heat from the Rotterdam industrial area. Realising this infrastructure will take an enormous effort. However, Leiden and some partners have already started the realisation of this network in a big project. Check out the video below to learn more about this project (in Dutch).

2. Placing hundreds of wind turbines

To generate enough energy to make Leiden energy neutral, a huge amount of energy needs to be generated inside the area. To achieve this, there need to be placed hundreds of wind turbines. In the scenario presented in the map, the wind turbines will create a thick belt through the area, ‘separating’ the urban area from the nature area. Some other wind turbines will be placed in the dunes, a almost sacred place for a lot of citizens. To convince people of the urgency of those placements as well as to fund this expensive project will probably be a tough task for the involved parties.


So to conclude, the municipality of Leiden took a bold step by developing this map which shows how radical the transition towards 2050 will need to be. This transition brings great challenges and I’m really curious on how Leiden will take these on.
What do you think? Will Leiden be able to reach their ambitious goal, based on the map that is presented? Can you find any underexposed solutions on the map? Feel free to let me know.


Pushing technology

By now, almost everyone with an internet connection in the western world must have heard about Tesla’s brilliant electric cars, haven’t you? The amount of Tesla cars sold in the Netherlands has doubled over the past 3 years. Which means that more and more people will have a Tesla, since the older ones are probably still around as well. This will lead to more charging stations as a convenience for the electric drivers… or will more charging stations lead to more cars? I wouldn’t be wrong in saying that electric cars are the future.

blog1Source: Anton Watts, https://goo.gl/E1GulM

This is not a problem if electric cars are the only applicable sustainable option. As Tesla started selling the first electric cars in the Netherlands, the municipalities started giving away free parking spaces with chargers for electric cars. Meanwhile, the government heavily subsidised the electric cars. Together, this led to a significant monetary benefit which boosted position of the electric car industry in the market.

Market share of Tesla Motors in the Netherlands (percentages)

Number of Tesla cars sold in the Netherlands (cars)
Source: https://goo.gl/EmYZwj

The investments of the governmental parties in the electric car practically eliminated the development of other energy sources for cars, like hydrogen or biofuels. We did the same thing in the early 1900s, but the other way around. The development of the electric cars was eliminated by the more efficient and cheaper gas powered cars, because at that time it was believed that fossil fuel powered cars were the superior alternative.

It is debateable whether we made a mistake choosing for the fossil fuel powered cars back in the 20th century, but let’s not make a mistake in the 21st century, and give all technological possibilities a chance! Fortunately, Toyota has released the Toyota Mirai in 2015, which runs on hydrogen and won the ‘World Green Car of the Year Award’ in 2016. Yet, neither have I seen this car in the Netherlands nor have I even heard of hydrogen fuel stations.

Source: Photography by Sean Rice, https://goo.gl/zSx2DY

The amount of hydrogen stations in the Netherlands is a disappointing number of only 2, which explains why I haven’t heard of them. This, while the amount of public electrical charging stations counts towards 25,000 at the time of writing this.

Number of charging stations for electrical cars in the Netherlands from 2010 to 2016, excluding private charging stations
Source: https://goo.gl/CAJZ6d

I’d like to conclude that it is ‘odd’ that electric cars seem to be the prospective future, while there is still at least one other viable possible solution.

We should not repeat history and pick a technology that suits us just for now, but stimulate multiple innovative concurrent solutions to build towards a better future. Toyota is still investing in their hydrogen car, so this technology will not be lost…. for now. And don’t get me wrong, electric cars are great. For the sake of sustainability, technology and the future, please think about these less known innovations, don’t they deserve more publicity and better chances to survive in the market?


Source Featured Image: https://goo.gl/SFTRZk

Hedonistic sustainability: guilt-free living

Scandinavia. A region that all the sustainability enthusiasts look up to. The Danish capital city  Copenhagen and the Swedish city Malmö have together received a Special Mention award at the Lee Kuan Yew World City Prize in Singapore “for their close collaboration at government and business levels, and shared vision of a holistic set of economic, environmental and socially sustainable goals”. Copenhagen wants to become the first carbon-neutral city by 2025. One of Malmö’s neighbourhoods, Västra Hamnen, is already carbon-neutral, as the first neighbourhood in Europe.

The City of Tomorrow

The ‘Western Harbour’, the English translation of Västra Hamnen, used to be a shipyard before the regeneration project was initiated in 2001. Now known as ‘the City of Tomorrow‘, the neighbourhood houses 4,000 people. As Katja Wessling, one of the residents, mentions, her way of living is a form of hedonistic sustainability: “you can just live a good life and you don’t really have to think about it”.

Gift to the city

Less than 40 kilometers away from Malmö is Copenhagen. In this city, 97 percent of the houses are connected to district heating; the buildings are heated by excess heat of power plants. Denmark only landfills four percent of its waste, 42 percent gets recycled and 54 percent is used for the creation of heat and electricity.

The CEO of Copenhagen’s newest waste to energy plant wanted the plant to be part of the city’s environment, as a “gift to the city”. She opened a competition, which architect Bjarke Ingels won with his idea to turn the outside of the plant into a ski slope.

Source: forbes.com

He designed walls with greenery, turning the building itself into an ecosystem. In addition, the waste to energy plant forms an ecosystem with the rest of the city as trash is interchanged with heat and electricity. Ingels also wants to teach the residents of Copenhagen about emissions, so the carbon-dioxide gets emitted in smoke rings and to know about the quantity of one tonne of CO2, people just have to count ten rings.

Hedonistic sustainability

In his TEDx talk, Bjarke Ingels, like Katja Wessling, speaks about the concept of hedonistic sustainability. It challenges “the misconception that one must give up a portion of their comfortable lifestyle” in order to live sustainably. Ingels defines hedonistic sustainability as “sustainability that improves the quality of life and human enjoyment”. He claims we shouldn’t focus on behavioural change. Instead, “it’s about designing our society in a smarter way”.

Copenhagen and Malmö thus teach us that we should focus on a smart design of the city while emphasising the good life, but then guilt-free. Ski slope, anyone?




Towards sustainable energy consumption – 5 creative ways to recycle heat

In Leiden, like in most European cities, the heating of buildings can amount to as much as half of the total energy consumption. From creating centralized heating systems, installing solar panels to heat up water to improving the insulation of your house or cutting showers short a couple of minutes – there are many options to more effectively consume energy, save on heating costs and reduce your impact on the environment.

This is nothing new to you? But, have you ever wondered what happens to all the heat lost in industrial processes, or produced when heating your home, showering, cooking, and driving? There is still huge potential in using and recycling this excess heat.

Here are 5 new ideas on how to not lose the heat you produce, of which you might not have heard of until now:

  1. Don’t let your warm water go down the drain – By recycling heat from your warm water off your sinks, dishwasher, washing machine and shower you can already preheat the water for the next usage. Companies, such as Canadian-based Renewability, already apply this concept for residential housing as well as company buildings.  The following video explains how Renewability’s system works:      http://www.renewability.com/video.html[1]
  1. Blow off some kitchen steam – Whenever you cook or bake or even simply when a refrigerator is running in your kitchen, vast amounts of excess heat are created that could be used to heat up your water or warm the dishwasher. An existing concept is South African’s Whirlpool’s eco kitchen, which redirects heat streams to where they are needed and is designed after natural ecosystem cycles. It can help create 70% more efficient kitchens than current the standard forms. ecokitchen[2]
  1. Suck that heat out of the pavement – Heat can be extracted almost everywhere, including sun-lit pavements. By building water pipelines beneath pavement surfaces, researchers are currently testing how excess heat can best be collected. But there is much more to streets than just the pavements. Heat from friction caused by traffic could in the future be used for energy creation, too. asphalt-collector-spoorviaduct-905x677[3]
  2. Get more from your supermarket than just groceries – Supermarkets, and many other companies create heat through cooling processes or from industrial processes, which altogether equals millions of oil barrels wasted every year. New projects aim at connecting centralized city heating systems with industries to heat entire cities with waste heat.[4] For instance Leiden, in cooperation with Heinken, will use waste heat from Rotterdam harbour’s industrial processes in the future. leidenwarmthFor a video of the process, click here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vLHDx9dlWU4

Also, do you have a supermarket underneath your apartment or nearby your house? Local solutions might allow you to link your heating system to a supermarket’s cooling system generating a local supply of (up to now mostly unused) heat.[5]

  1. Last but not least, use your body heat – The human body radiates about 100W of excess heat when resting and even more while rushing around. Imagine capturing the heat of hundreds of thousands of people to heat buildings. This is what is done in a 13-floor high office building next to Stockholm’s Central Station. The excess heat of 200.000 commuters is collected by ventilators and used to produce hot water with the help of heat exchangers. The host water is then transported to the office building. This system reduced energy costs of the office by 20%. Similar initiatives exist in Paris where body heat collected at metro stations is used to heat 17 nearby office buildings.[6]thinkerbw [7] Surprisingly, using body heat for heating rooms has not yet been tested in fitness studios.

Unconventional ideas, such as the examples presented, might play a key role for efficient future management of energy usage. Do you have your own ideas or projects on how to recycle heat? Comment below and share your experience to help Leiden and other cities around the globe recycle heat and become sustainable.

Interested in the topic? Find out more by following these links:

[1] http://www.renewability.com/power_pipe/how_works.html

[2] http://gizmodo.com/368565/whirlpool-kitchen-is-eco-friendly-recycles-heat-water

[3] https://www.cyclifier.org/

Dawson et al. (2014) Energy Harvesting from Pavements. In: Gopalakrishnan et al. (eds.) Climate Change, Energy, Sustainability and Pavements. Heidelberg: Springer, 481-517.

[4] https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2016/03/160330174617.htm

[5] Fricke, Brian A. (2011) Final Report. Waste Heat Recapture from Supermarket Refrigeration Systems. http://info.ornl.gov/sites/publications/files/pub31294.pdf

[6] http://www.eurocities.eu/eurocities/news/Body-heat-new-green-energy-source-WSPO-9HLBUY


[7] http://www.drcruzan.com/Images/Physics/Thermodynamics/HeatTransfer/HeatTransferModes.png

Sustainable Leiden – Jan 2017

A new year, new chances! The students of this year’s final course of the Minor Sustainable Development, provided by the Institute of Environmental Sciences (CML) at Leiden University, will again be working with the Leiden City Council to help them develop their Sustainability plans. This collaboration was started last year, and we look forward to building upon its success.

Image result for innovative ideas from waste
Plastic bottles to create a vertical garden (pic credit: Maria Rose)

As part of this course, students will be investigating the opportunities for the city of Leiden with respect to energy generation, energy transition, circular economy and climate adaptation. In groups, they will address specific questions of the council regarding these topics, and present them at the end of January. In preparation for this exercise, the students will be writing posts to this blog detailing ideas and initiatives from elsewhere as inspiration for what may be done in Leiden.

We look forward to presenting some exciting ideas appear over the next few weeks!