Tag Archives: Energy Transition

The New Generation: Smart Buildings


Growing exponentially in the urban area vernacular, we have recently witnessed the same word pop up more often than not: ‘Smart’ buildings and cities. It seems to be the new hype since urban planners across the world are combining technology, big data, and urban living spaces to solve the greatest bottlenecks of our modern cities. Cities struggle with a growing population which causes a decline in the standard of living, increased pollution, traffic jams, etc. In the light of the above, we will mainly focus on the sustainability aspect of these new smart cities and buildings.

First of all, what exactly is a smart building? A prime example is ‘The Edge’. At the end of 2017, the world’s greenest building was opened in Amsterdam, called ‘The Edge’; home to one of the big four firms. This building set a whole new standard for what green smart buildings ought to be and re-defined energy transition in the Amsterdam corporate space. This building is everything one could wish for, and more.

Because of its unique and flexible workplaces, lesser space is needed and ergo, lesser energy is consumed. On top of that, the newly developed LED system by Phillips that connects light through ethernet cables consumes much less energy than normal lighting would and the building is covered in solar panels. Furthermore, the employees are encouraged the use electric cars that can be charged with solar energy. Of course, with relevant infrastructure for these charging ports already in place.

That is not the only smart buildings that the Netherlands has churned out. Last year, Helmond, a city linked with the Dutch Brainport Eindhoven, announced (link in Dutch) that they will build the first smart neighbourhood of the Netherlands, the Brainport Village. This will be done in affiliation with the Technical University of Eindhoven (TU/e). Within this smart neighbourhood, sustainability will be at the very core, acting as a living lab for future sustainable technologies. This neighbourhood will be completely self-sufficient in their energy needs as well as reduce the amount of energy needed through sharing and smart street lights.

Gerelateerde afbeelding
Brandevoort, which will be expanded to Brainport Smart Village

So where is The Hague in this narrative? Since 2015, the city of The Hague has been making plans to become a so-called ‘Smart City’. Last year, they even published a long-term strategy towards becoming a full-blown smart city, however, they are not giving sustainability enough attention. Until recently. In the final weeks of 2017 the city council of The Hague announced that they will cover their ADO football stadium with solar panels to power the match and charge people’s electric cars. This is in line with the city’s goal (link in Dutch) to go through a full energy transition and be self-sufficient regarding their energy needs.

The Hague is not yet on the level of ‘The Edge’ nor making plans to build places such as the Brainport Village. The city is making small steps towards full energy transition in a different way than the rest is. Instead of focussing on the ‘smart’ aspect of things, The Hague has smaller plans on the agenda, such as the solar panels on the football stadium, to realise their bigger goal: climate neutral 2040. Only time will tell which city will be most successful in their energy transition.


Homemade green energy. Do It Yourself?


Being environmentally conscious has never been more popular these days. One look at my facebook and YouTube page and I’m overload by tags such as  #govegan #lovetheearth #Greenpower. It’s nice to know that people are more aware about their impact makes on our earth with their choices and actions. And some of then want to make an actual change on their ecological footprint.

Easiest way people can do this is to do an energy transition. They transfer from their current energy supply company to a more green company who do invest in creating actual green energy not just with the Guarantee of Origin certificates. But even those companies has to deal with energy peaks. Sometimes they are unable to meet the energy demand.

So this is why Universities around the world are seeking for the best and greenest way of creating, saving and use energy. To earn most honorable status of greenest university innovation. These days we have a lot of green options to choose from thanks to their unlimited curiosity and to science. These options are wind energy, geothermal energy, solar power panels etc.  But the biggest problem is how to save the energy and distribute evenly over an certain spatial area. This question comes with many challenges and questions. It  provide us new opportunities to explore beyond our limits of knowledges. But those prototypes  takes very long time before entering the mainstream market.

Good job universities! Keep looking for this superpower to convert all of the green energy into a saving buffer  for later use like a powerful battery or whatever this product  may be. I’m really looking forward to all your genius works!

So what can we do as individual as long this solution isn’t available. But still can get green energy in the cheapest and greenest way at the moment. Why not build your own windmill and its generator? I personally do not have experience nor the expertise to build my own. But I do think this is a fun way to make your very own green energy. Imagine this when it’s a windy day you get your renewable energy  from your roof to your wall socket. Without any energy supply company in between whose may not even be that green!

put this outside? No way,  not this beautiful work of art!

I’m inspired by my dear husband who studied applied physics . In colleges for one of his major subjects he has built with his classmates a windmill and generators. If you are interested how this looks like.. I will link this short video of his project  below. But I asked him about his experiences. Can anybody create this on their own? He replies with that anybody with an technical skills and willpower can create this. But at first you have to understand how magnetic induction and aerodynamics works.  And be to at least a bit handy. See the websites down below for a more detailed information on this topic.

According to engineering websites on making our own  windmill  can be a bit disappointment when comes to payback period. It usually takes longer than a conventional windmill on land. But when you love  technical DIY projects at home than this might me a good option to spend your money and spare time on this. And at the same time you’re creating green credits when charging your phone. And while you type down  #greenenergy #LoveEarth # Greenpower you are  being 100% truthfully then! Imagine this..

Link to Arno’s self-made windmill generator https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SJ8snVQTq2c&feature=youtu.be

Step by step how to make windmill (in Dutch)



video how to build your own windmill https://www.youtube.com/watch?time_continue=64&v=xQgObKnwMco

Info about Guarentee of Orgin: https://www.aib-net.org/certification/c_faq/reliability

Two ways to find out how sustainable you live in your house

On 12 December 2015, 171 political leader signed an international climate policy in Paris, the Paris Agreement. This agreement also meant a reversion for Leiden in the field of CO2- emissions: a reduction of 49% in 2030 compared to 1990. In order to achieve this, the trias energetica was included in the policy plan of the municipality. The trias energetica is based on the following: ‘First, we need to reduce the demand for energy. Second, we need to use sustainable sources in stead of fossil fuels. Third, we need to produce and use fossil energy as efficient as possible.’ Despite the fact that the trias energetica is included in the policy plan, there are two issues, which make the target more difficult to achieve:

  1. The mandatory energy label (Dutch: Energielabel plicht)
  2. The green certificates from abroad (GOs = Guarantees of Origin)

1. The mandatory energy label 

monumentaalpand leiden.png

An energy label is a label that indicates how many measures for energy- savings have been applied to a house. Houses can no longer be sold without a label because of the mandatory energy label. This measure aims to reduce the demand for energy. With this measure, the government has set a step in the right direction. However, this obligation does not apply to all houses. Protected monuments* do not need to have a label, while protected monuments form a significant share in the housing market in Leiden. It is possible that Leiden is not going to achieve its target for 2030 because of this legislation. If you do not live in a protected monument, see if your house contributes to achieving the climate agreement. Below, you can find out what your label is. Label A is the best and G the worst.

*According to the Heritage act (Dutch: Erfgoedwet) or in the provincial or municipal regulation (Dutch: verordening)

Step 1. The website: https://www.rijksoverheid.nl/onderwerpen/energielabel-woningen-en-gebouwen/vraag-en-antwoord/hoe-kom-ik-aan-een-energielabel-voor-mijn-woning

2. The green certificates from abroad 

The next step requires an explanation about green certificates from abroad. What are green certificates anyway? The video below gives a good explanation. A green certificate  proofs that 1 MWh of renewable energy has been generated from sources such as solar panels and windmills. The green certificate is sold to the energy provider and therefore  the energy provider can provide the consumer with green energy. This is done, because it ensures the consumer that he or she contributes to the production of green energy on the general energy network.  Since the general energy network also contains energy from fossil fuels, such as coal-fired plants. There is often no direct connection between the source of the renewable energy and the consumer, for example between a windmill and a specific building. This direct connection is only made on paper because of the green certificates. The purpose of the certificates is to use more and more renewable energy and less fossil fuels.

It is therefore regrettable that some energy providers have found a way to use green certificates, but on the other hand do not contribute to the energy transition. This is due to purchased green certificates from abroad, for example from Norway and Iceland. Inhabitants of Norway and Iceland are sure that they receive green energy from the hydropower plants. They do not necessary need a green certificate to believe that they are receiving energy from renewable resources. On top of that, these countries can sell  green certificates to other countries, because they have enough certificates to reach the climate targets. Therefore, the green certificates from Norway and Iceland can be sold to countries such as the Netherlands. Inhabitants of the Netherlands also want to contribute to a more sustainable world, but because we do not automatically purchase electricity from renewable resources, we buy green energy with the green certificates. The behavior of some energy providers is misleading. It is cheaper for them to buy green certificates from abroad than actually produce renewable energy themselves. The hydropower plants in Norway have been running there for decades. Unfortunately, this does therefore not contribute to the energy transition. So see if your energy provider also participates in this. You can see this below.

Step 2. The website: https://wisenederland.nl/energievergelijker


Smart Batteries may be the solution for a sustainable The Hague

Do you want to reduce your annual energy bill while you’re helping The Hague become future proof? Many steps have to be taken to minimize and eventually completely eliminate our carbon footprint. Using green energy in our houses, workplaces, school and other buildings is a clean and easy way to do our share for the environment. A company based in California, Green Charge Networks, might have developed the golden trick to facilitate this process, namely Smart batteries. This allows solar energy to be stored for later consumption. The company is specialized in creating predictive software and energy-storages, enabling households and local enterprises to lower their energy demand during peak hours. The project’s main goal is to promote energy-efficiency and in the meantime encourage more households, local businesses and public organisations to go solar.

Capture d’écran 2018-01-14 à 13.07.40.png

A picture of the smart lithium-ion batteries released by Sustainia. http://solutions.sustainia.me/solutions/smart-batteries-reducing-peak-power-consumption/

How does it work? The corporation provides lithium-ion batteries accompanied by big analytical data software. When solar energy is affluent during the day and the grid demand is low, the installed lithium power cube will automatically store the surplus energy. This technology, doubtlessly user-friendly, enables us to use green and free energy when the demand is high and the prices increase.

This video posted on Youtube by the company gives a short and clear visualization of the installation. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bVE0qazg8qM


A “two birds with one stone” solution. In addition to financial benefits, this innovation also empowers the use of locally produced green energy allowing cities to make big steps towards the carbon neutral goal. Currently, many cities are thriving in becoming fully green and carbon neutral before reaching half way the 21st century. The Hague makes no exception here. Reducing energy generated by non-renewable sources such as coals, oil and gas will definitely help us achieve this sustainable goal. Considering the current expansion of households, corporations and public organisations are eager to invest in green energy. Bearing in mind that in 2016 only 5,9% of the Dutch electricity bill was generated from renewable sources. The installation of smart lithium batteries in The Hague will be the golden opportunity to upscale the green energy consumption and to decouple the demand from the supply chain. Enabling other futuristic and green energy-efficient innovations to progress. Another unneglectable green aspect induced by this modernization is the fact that solar panels will account for higher production levels than ever before, meaning that raw materials are better invested. On the long run, this could also mean that less raw materials will have to be extracted for the production of solar panels. The only downside to this is that the amount of raw materials needed for the batteries will increase.

We-share-solar.jpgBe cool and share. The lithium-ion energy storages could form the base to new social projects. For example Solar share, allowing the extractionof energy stored by different consumers. Meaning, you could use green energy produced by your neighbour’s solar panels when he or she is not home. This share of renewable energy is already set in place in different municipalities in Australia and in the United States. Green Energy Cooperative, an association developing and financing different energy-efficiency projects that involve local communities, claims that inducing full engagement and responsibility of citizens in energy production is the key to a sustainable future.


Visualization of energy share.

I agree that much more will have to be done if we want to fight back climate change fully.  Yet I do believe this modern installation could be an easy way to facilitate the transition to green energy, as it brings along a broad range of benefits and opportunities. I especially like the fact that it could makes individuals more independent, seeing as they would not have to fully rely on the volatile prices of energy. It also strengthens local communities.


Making the energy transition easier

The municipality of The Hague has set the goal to be climate neutral in 2040. On energy transition level, this means two things. On the one hand, the energy usage has to be minimized. On the other hand, the energy demand has to be supplied with sustainable energy coming from renewable sources. In short, energy transition can be defined as the transition from fossil fuel based energy to a renewable form of energy. For the majority of the citizens of The Hague this transition may seem as a huge step. This blog is not going to argue that it is not, but it will provide a tool that can be useful during the transition.

First of all, this step does not need to be taken in one go. The distance from the starting point to the endpoint can be chopped up into smaller pieces. In this blog I will focus solely on the first part, namely the reduction of energy use. According to Linda Steg and colleagues, the reduction of energy use will enhance the efficiency of sustainable energy systems. Individuals can either invest in sustainable initiatives or avoid certain daily energy actions. The average energy use of households in The Hague is forty-four percent of the total energy demand. This percentage is the highest of the six stated sectors.

The tools and information to reduce energy use at the household level are openly available. The top five tools for reducing energy provided by Harvard University states that shutting down electronic devices, choosing for LED light, unplugging electronic devices, shutting down power strips and turning off the lights are the main tools to reduce energy use. These tools are publicly known, however why bother when you are convinced that your energy usage is already low?

Currently, there are multiple initiatives that are trying to make the visualization of the energy use of households more accessible. One of these initiatives is a Kickstarter funded project called Glow. Glow is an energy tracking device which measures the energy usage of a household and creates an overview of the gathered information. This gathered information is visualized in an app. When connected, the device shows different colors of light. When it is green, the energy use is low, when it turns orange or even red, the energy use is (too) high. This energy tracker can be a useful device to monitor and eventually reduce energy use.

With this blog I am not posing the magic key to a successful energy transition, but I think that the majority of the people living in The Hague are not aware of their daily energy use and even if they are, it might be too expensive to make the transition. This expenses could be partly subsidized by the municipality. Or the municipality can try to create an similar app as the one from Glow, with which the citizens can see their daily energy use. When the energy use information is available to the households, they are already a few steps on their way to the finish; a fulfilled energy transition. The Hague wants to be CO2 neutral in 2040. Let us try to decrease the energy use of the sector in which the demand is highest, namely the households.

Sustainable Leiden & The Hague Jan 2018

A new year, a more sustainable city?! 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 further develop their Sustainability ambitions. Half the class will this year also contribute to a further development of the Sustainability goals of the City Council of The Hague. In groups they will act as consultancy agencies and work with the councils as their client on current and relevant sustainability challenges.

As part of this course, students will be investigating the opportunities for the cities of Leiden and The Hague with respect to energy transition, circular economy and climate adaptation. In groups (acting as consultancy agencies, with the Council as their client), they will investigate current hot-topic questions of the council within these themes. They will present their results at the end of January. As part of the course, the students will also be writing posts to this blog detailing ideas and initiatives from elsewhere as inspiration for what may be done in Leiden/The Hague within their themes.

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

Map by FABRICations

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.