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The E-Nerds article series takes a 'serious' look at scientific claims in fiction stories in popular culture, such as the physics, chemistry, or logic behind what occurs on-screen in a playful manner, by looking through the lens of an Engineer at such claims. The views and opinions expressed in these articles do not reflect those of the CommUnity Post nor of the CommUnity by InnoEnergy; furthermore, the first-hand testing of these claims is not recommended. Let us know what you think about these articles and if you'd like to see more in the comments section. Enjoy!


 

The Matrix is among the first trilogies of science fiction that has left its mark on film history for its dystopic and tragic vision of a future governed entirely by machines. It was probably the first time when the reality of Earth and of human beings was questioned. Leaving aside philosophy and the dystopian world of the Matrix, I asked myself: 

 

Would a world that works on human thermal energy ever be possible?

The Matrix world

An image representing the Matrix, seen in its real form as the code source

 

In the Wachowski brothers' movie, human beings are immersed in a non-specified gelatinous substance and they are linked to a huge computer called "The Matrix" making the human being no longer in control of his own body, but keeping the body alive and bodily functions intact (such as metabolism) by fooling the mind into thinking the "Matrix Experience" is a real one. The man connected to the Matrix is constantly asleep whereby all the nerve endings no longer communicate with the rest of the body but interact directly through the machine. Similar to virtual reality applications, the person is entirely absorbed into a fictitious reality that he considers to be the true reality, while he does not realize that what he considers to be the real world is nothing but a machine simulation. The only clues are given by small "glitches", system errors caused by the computer programming of the Matrix.

 

But is human energy enough to make these electricity intense machines work?

The energy source of the machine

The energy needed by the machines was initially given by solar panels according to the movie. Their efficiency and their great diffusion allowed the machines to accumulate large quantities of electricity and to live and prosper. The onset of the war between machines and humans led the human faction to take the drastic decision to completely cover the sky with a thick, black curtain of smoke, so as to make the solar panels useless.

At that point, the machines started to exploit the energy they accumulated in a way they considered effective enough to make them win the war: exploiting the thermal energy produced by synthetic human beings, while studying their behavior to end the war.

 

Due to the second law of thermodynamics, this solution will never be sustainable and it can be discarded immediately as energy must be used to create and feed the synthesized human beings.

However, let’s suppose instead that the energy comes from naturally-born human beings that are not synthetically produced in a laboratory by the machines. This opens to brutal scenarios, but the following analysis has to be considered as a pure thought exercise.

The Matrix power plant: Neo wakes up

 

First of all, the human body does not produce as much electricity as eels do, for example, unless we consider the small electrical impulses necessary to make the muscles move. In terms of energy quality, this form would be the most suitable as no conversion is needed, but it falls far in magnitude from the amounts produced by the body in terms of thermal energy (source). In fact, a few milliwatts (mW) of electrical energy would be enough to cause tetanus or kill a human. Moreover, the chemical energy stored in our cells is significantly higher than both of the previous forms and this is why The Matrix also recycles synthetic people who are malfunctioning to feed the rest of the bodies.

 

What could they do otherwise to feed such a big machine?

 

The land in this dystopian future is unsuitable for agriculture or biomass harvesting since the sky is completely covered and the sun no longer transmits energy to the planet.

The chemical energy of a human body

Instead of the energy contained in a human body, it is here considered the energy generically provided by 1 kg of pork meat. The pig is chosen as a parameter for comparison because it is the animal that most resembles the human internal characteristics. Considering a generic specimen that we can find at the supermarket, we can see that 1 kg of meat provides about 2400 kcal. Considering an average person of about 75 kg, each human body can provide about 180,000 kcal. This amount is enough to feed a human being for 90 days, or a quarter of a year, at a rate of 2,000 kcal/day. The human population should therefore lose 80% of its capacity each year to allow the system to survive alone, since it takes four people to meet the energy needed for a single human being for one year. Considering an average lifespan of 70 years, well, it is necessary to sacrifice 280 people just to let one live. Unsustainable and gruesome.

The daily energy produced by a human

Each person emits a heat power of 100W in rest conditions, while during sleep the energy emitted is 90W. Considering this last situation the daily production will be 2.16 kWh. This energy is given by transmission from a body temperature of 37 degrees and the surroundings at 20°C. However, the energy produced in this way has a very low exergy and therefore is not fully exploitable. Considering in fact an ideal Carnot engine, the efficiency would be just 5.5%. With this conversion you could get just 118.5 Wh of electricity per person per day, but since the inefficiencies will still be present, we keep an overly optimistic 5% for 108Wh per day.

 

The maximum generable energy is 756 GWh per day for a population of 7 billion humans. In a year, around 276,000 TWh can be obtained.

 

To understand if this quantity can be sufficient to feed the entire faction of the machines, we consider the current consumption of electricity. According to the Wikipedia sources, 20,900 TWh were consumed in the world in 2012. The energy produced would therefore be 13 times higher than that consumed currently by the world population.

Doubts and a little fanciful hypothesis

Before stating that everything assumed until now would work and that it is all feasible, it is necessary to consider that the world of the Matrix is entirely governed by machines and entirely electrified. It is also fully functional, so there are no areas that are not used by machines. Therefore, to simplify the concept,  we can consider it as a macro computer the size of the Earth. Thus, consumption is not limited to the few Data Centers existing today and the energy used is far superior. In fact, if we consider the average energy consumption of a developed and efficient region of the world like Europe, the average consumption is 6300 kWh per year. Multiplying this for the 7 billion human beings, the total consumption results to be 44100 TWh, which is 2.15 times more than currently consumed.

 

01: The main city of the faction of the machines

 

Furthermore, energy production has been overly estimated at 5% efficiency, but with the present temperatures we would have highly inefficient heat exchangers, since it is difficult to have an effective heat transfer when the temperature difference falls below 10 °C. It must also be considered that 37°C is the internal human temperature, while the skin is nearer to 34°C. To be able to have an efficient heat transfer, thermoelectric technology should be exploited, which even with future improvements would hardly reach 1% efficiency [1], making the energy generated from this technology almost zero.

 

Therefore, the world reality is very far from achieving such a dystopian world.

 

Jacopo Sala

 The CommUnity Post

 


[1] This number is made up by myself based on the current state of the technology that is way under 1%. If somebody has a theoretical knowledge and would like to provide real theoretical figures through Seeback’s coefficient, Temperature and thermal gradient is more than welcome.

 


CommUnity Post Review Team: Laura Broleri, Miles Weinstein, Kalina Dmitiriew

Open a page of Forbes magazine and you will no doubt be met with yet another success story of a team of young entrepreneurs who have struck gold with their revolutionary innovation. In an increasingly globalised world, where technological advancement and knowledge transfer is growing at a faster rate than ever before, the climate for startups, due to enhanced access to markets and new business opportunities has never been better. However, the success rate of startups is often misrepresented and exaggerated in the media, with a vast 90% failing within their first year. Building a business from scratch can involve some risks and success cannot always be guaranteed, but if executed correctly, it has the potential to have an impact.

 

We spoke to Philipp Hollberg, co-founder and managing director of startup ‘CAALA’ and graduate of EIT InnoEnergy’s SELECT Master’s programme, to get an honest insight into the current startup environment, dispel any common misconceptions, and discuss his suggestions for aspiring entrepreneurs. CAALA (Computer Aided Architectural Life-cycle Assessment) enables architects and building planners to optimise a building’s design in a time-efficient and effortless manner, and thus increases the project’s economic value, while simultaneously preserving the environment. The software supplies users with the necessary tools to achieve energy and GHG-emission savings on a large scale.

 

According to Philipp, the EIT InnoEnergy SELECT Master’s programme, as well as his brother’s PhD in construction, was the inspiration for CAALA and empowered him with the necessary knowledge and motivation to become a tech entrepreneur. With a world-class education, as well as an abundance of highly desired skills sought after by employers, what is it that attracted Philipp to the startup scene, rather than taking the more common route of pursuing an office job? He attributes this decision to his education, which he considers to be his safety net. “I was able to take a risk with CAALA, because I knew that even if it failed, I had my education to fall back on, so there were always other paths and opportunities available for me to pursue.” He wanted to invest his time and energy into a cause he truly believed in and was passionate about, rather than settling for a nine-to-five job and a comfortable salary after graduation.

 

Philipp also credits the success of the company to his exceptional team, which includes his father and brother. While for some, running a business with family members may sound like a challenge, Philipp considers it to be a huge advantage for the company. Their aligned values and beliefs, as well as their complementary skills, create a dynamic and effective relationship, which is important in an environment that can often be stressful and unpredictable.

 

His family also contributes to maintaining Philipp’s healthy work-life balance, which is an aspect of running a business that many entrepreneurs struggle with. Even he admits that it is not always easy, and that it is important to be disciplined and realistic with yourself.

 

Being based in Munich means Philipp is never too far away from a weekend getaway to the mountains, where he enjoys engaging in various sports with friends and family. In Philipp’s eyes, interacting with the natural environment on a personal level is another crucial component of running a business like CAALA: “When working in the sustainability field, it is so important to be in touch with nature; to go outdoors and experience it for yourself, to be inspired by its beauty and to better understand the ultimate goal of your mission.”

 

However, it is unlikely to be successful without hurdles and setbacks along the way, Philipp emphasises. Patience is of the essence when it comes to startups. The processes involved take time, be it finding investors and receiving funding, or waiting for regulatory approval. While optimism is no doubt a positive characteristic to have, Philipp explains that when designing the initial product roadmap, many entrepreneurs fall into the trap of setting themselves unrealistic goals, which often prove too ambitious and require readjustment of the business plan. It is important not to dwell on the negative aspects in such scenarios, but to move forward with an informed decision after an in-depth analysis and reevaluation.

 

Lastly, a commonly overlooked but crucial stage in a startup’s life cycle is product sale. You may have a groundbreaking invention, Philipp explains, which you have spent years perfecting and is finally ready for commercialisation, but if consumer demand is lacking, its likelihood of success is minimal. Philipp, who is currently in the sales stage with CAALA, highlights its ‘trial and error’ nature, which often involves cold calling and requires great patience. He emphasises that this stage may be particularly lengthy if you are trying to get a completely new product onto the market, as it may take longer than usual to convince consumers that it is worth their investment. To bring revenue in the meantime, CAALA has also adapted to provide energy efficiency consulting services.

 

There is a huge hype surrounding startups in today’s modern society. The market is becoming increasingly saturated as hundreds of aspiring entrepreneurs go for gold and intensify competition in the startup sector. What advice does Philipp have for students and young professionals who want to make a positive contribution to a cause they are passionate about? In such a cutthroat environment, what makes you and your business stand out from the crowd?

 

Make sure you have a backup plan, Philipp urges. For him, this was his education, which provided him with a degree of security and a safety net in case things did not go according to plan. It put him in a position to “go a bit crazy” and take risks, which ultimately paid off and got him to where he is today.

 

A common misconception about breaking through the startup industry is that a revolutionary innovation is required to really set you apart as an entrepreneur and increase your business’s chance of success. Philipp explains that this is not in fact the reality. “I would advise against trying to only rely on being innovative. It may be much easier to sell a service or product that is already well-known on the market, than something that is completely novel. Finding the right balance is important. The key to selling your product is communicating how it benefits customers, and why it is better than its competitors.”

 

Most importantly, dream big. The CAALA software is still very much a niche today, but Philipp hopes that one day this technology will become a mainstream tool employed by planners and architects around the world. Ultimately, it all boils down to passion, perseverance and hard work. Be self-critical, challenge yourself and take risks.

 

 

Kalina Dmitriew

The CommUnity Post

 


CommUnity Post Reviewers: Miles Weinstein, Rachel Sadok, and Jacopo Sala

Education beats at the heart of sustainability

- Andrea Illy

 


Call to Action:

Are you interested in what we are doing? We would love to share our experiences and material with you! Your help to improve and spread what we are doing is also warmly welcome!

Please contact us under: sustainability.by.education@gmail.com


 

Introduction

What started as a small idea in January (click here, if you haven't read the previous blog post), has now been successfully implemented; Sustainability by Education, the idea of bridging the gap between sustainability professionals and future generations in order to enhance and spread the idea and concept of sustainability. Over the past months, a group of InnoEnergy students have elaborated an interactive and interesting workshop for kids from 9 to 13 years old, which aims to do exactly this. Aside from the many best practices by institutes and NGOs available online, Julia Bayascas Caseras, Esteban Pastor Calatayud, Sebastián Zaera, David CorcolesNatalia Escobosa Pineda, and myself, Leon Haupt have developed new approaches and methodologies to create an amazing learning experience. Coming up with the workshop itself was not the only challenge the team was facing, finding a school which was interested in the group to present and practice the workshop was a key milestone, as well. Thanks to Júlia's uncle, Colegi Jesús, Maria i Josep, a school in Barcelona was keen to collaborate with this project and give us the opportunity to test the workshop in three, two-hour classes. Thus, the first week of May 2018 the team of six CommUnity members visited this school to give three sessions of a hands-on experience on sustainability to around 70 students.

What is Sustainability?

The day began with an introduction round for students and the team to get to know each other. The kids were startled by curiosity, as it is not common that six young people from different nationalities visit their school. Natalia broke the silence and opened the introduction round by saying her name, her future dream career when she was a kid and one word she associated sustainability with. The children were keen to share their name and vision, but when it came up to sustainability, most of them were hesitant to say anything. Some associated sustainability with environment, others were not able to pronounce the word, and some others defined the concept perfectly. We collected the answers and built a diagram sorting the answers in three integrated layers: environment, society and economy. With more and more answers, the idea became clearer to the students: Everything is interdependent and sustainability is what creates an equilibrium between these layers.

What is Carrying Capacity?

Equilibrium in the context of sustainability needs to be further explained, as it is somewhat abstract and broad. Therefore, the first activity was focused on the concept of carrying capacity. To easily visualise this phenomenon, a simple but impressive game would quickly show what it meant. In this game, David and Sebastian were representing two different earths with two different mindsets, each with one slice of bread: David, representing the fast consuming and ruthless population, who tries to get most of the bread consumed at once. Sebastian, on the other hand was more aware of a reasonable pace of consumption and tried to save it as much as possible. Shortly after starting, the ruthless earth (David) started choking and apparently started suffering from the fast consumption. Early on, it was clear that the bread illustrated the available resources on earth. Júlia asked for the observations and possible interpretations. And everyone arrived to the correct conclusion: If we have a negative impact on the environment in a too short a period of time, the earth will not be able to cope and its carrying capacity will be exceeded. We need to be more conscious about what and how we consume. Sometimes, we want things we don't need. If we continue like this we will explode the earth’s carrying capacity and decrease our overall living standards.

What is the Tragedy of the Commons?

But there is more! Another concept, fundamental to sustainability was introduced: "The Tragedy of The Commons"! Again, this round started off with more questions than answers. The kids were divided into teams, who would send a pair of their members per round to win candy for the team. In the middle of the classroom, a big blanket was spread and held together by the  first teammates of each pair, then candy was placed on the tensed blanket. All the second teammates would have only ten seconds to compete for the candy. The first round ended profitable for all the teams. Each team achieved yields up to 10 candies. In the second round, the next two members had to work harder to score for their team, simply by the fact that there was less candy in the blanket. This was repeated until the last members of each team participated. From the scoreboard, the decline of yield was very significant. Sebastian and Júlia gave the kids again the opportunity to draw their own conclusions: “The game favours the first teams!” and “It’s unfair!” some said. Following this, the kids were asked what the different teams were symbolising, and why this game was round-based. It clicked! Different teams illustrated different countries or continents. The rounds were different generations. The candy represented the limited resources of the world. If everyone harvests in favour of their own profit, it may attempt against the social good. Forward-thinking and considerate harvesting can decrease discrepancy between continents and future generation. By making this connection, the kids deduced correctly that sustainability is about equity, fair access to resource for everyone and of course, sharing! Success!

What is Clean Energy?

After so many abstract concepts, energy as a key to a sustainable future was something the pupils had some knowledge. Nevertheless, as energy engineers, this topic is something we cannot often talk enough about: Sebastian introduced renewable and non-renewable resources for the means of energy production.  Esteban continued with solar PV, the immense amount of energy coming from the sun and the resulting wind on the earth, which can be harvested using gigantic wind turbines. Esteban accentuated the fascinating world of renewable energy with a small homemade wind turbine fueling an LED, when powered by a blow dryer. This got the kids attention. Some were skeptical and assumed that a battery would be powering the LED, but Esteban explained that the energy solely comes from the small electric engines which act similarly to the dynamo of a bike.

David had the challenge to talk about nuclear energy and its advantages and disadvantages. Júlia then explained what it meant to harvest biomass and why non-renewable energy sources are still used nowadays. Eventually, David concluded that energy efficiency is one of the most powerful tools we have as consumer. After the heavy explanation about energy resources, another game helped the kids process the new information Each table had to allocate different statements to the respective energy source. Each table was supervised by one of the  CommUnity members to ensure that the learning outcome had been achieved.

 

Why does renewable energy make a difference?

What does it mean to act in a sustainable way in the context of renewable energy? Once again, the kids had to split up in teams for a game that sums up the workshop.  White and orange coloured ping pong balls were handed out to each of them.The orange ones represented the renewable energy resources, while the white ones were conventional gas, oil and coal for conventional energy plants. Each team had the same number of balls but a different proportion of renewables, to the point that some teams had no renewables at all. The game was played in rounds. Every round, the students were asked to consume two units of energy and they could choose the resource they used. After the kids handed us the resources they chose, we returned the orange, renewable ping pong balls to the basket, so they could be used in the following turn as well. The first round caused slight confusion. Apparently, the kids did not expect getting the renewable energy back. After the final round, the total amount of remaining energy that each team had was counted. This symbolized the energy that they would have had for the next generation. The aim of the activity was to show that renewables are an endless resource, therefore consuming it does not diminish your pool of resources.. However, if you rely on non-renewable sources there is less options for the following generations to satisfy their energy needs. This activity successfully challenged and braced the understanding of forward thinking in the context of renewable energy.

The Conclusion

The UN Sustainable Development Goals

Kids were noticeably worn out and the attention dipped, but in a last attempt we concluded the workshop rounding up by showing the Sustainable Development Goals. Clean energy is just one goal among others, such as: zero hunger, clean water and sanitation, no poverty, and quality education education, with 17 in total. The most important to take away is, that every person in every position can contribute to sustainable development.

After the workshop is before the workshop!

The interaction with the kids was amazing and incredibly inspiring! It motivated us to follow up on this and to expand it to something bigger. We are currently working on the feedback we got from the kids and teachers. Moreover, new activities explaining new concepts are being worked on. The translation of the workshop material will be something to focus on, as well. The material was created in English and has been translated to Spanish already, but more languages will follow. In terms of dissemination, the material, including instructions will be uploaded to this space soon.

Thank you to everyone who has been involved so far!

 

Written by Leon Haupt and Julia Bayascas Caseras

The CommUnity Post


CommUnity Post Review Team: Kalina Dmitriew, Irena Dukovska, David Duque Lozano, and Natalia Escobosa Pineda 

CommUnity Post

E-Nerds: Futurama

Posted by CommUnity Post Partner 11-Jul-2018

The E-Nerds article series takes a 'serious' look at scientific claims in fiction stories in popular culture, such as the physics, chemistry, or logic behind what occurs on-screen in a playful manner, by looking through the lens of an Engineer at such claims. The views and opinions expressed in these articles do not reflect those of the CommUnity Post nor of the CommUnity by InnoEnergy; furthermore, the first-hand testing of these claims is not recommended. Let us know what you think about these articles and if you'd like to see more in the comments section. Enjoy!


 

Photo Credits: Matt Groening - ©2011 Twentieth Century Fox

 

Bender drinks beer almost all day.

 

Bender Bending Rodriguez Sr.--aka Bender--is not just any robot, he is one of the few prototypes of the Futurama universe that still runs on beer in the year 3000. Unfortunately, his shape does not allow him to be highly efficient and the countless viruses accumulated in his 12TB memory do not help. While the robot world has evolved to nuclear reactors, the 'old' Bender model is still based on fuel cells, which makes him particularly backward compared to newer and more innovative models. Moreover, this leads him to an interminable beer addiction and the problem of feeling drunk when he is thirsty.

 

"So sober… So weak" Cit. Bender

 

But he does not give up on life. After being almost completely discarded due to his malfunctioning, he has now reinvented his life and he works as an assistant manager of sales at Planet Express and as an entertainer to the masses.

 

How is it possible to create a robot like this?

 

Bender works thanks to a fuel cell capable of transforming ethanol into electricity to power the robot himself. These types of fuel cells already exist today, although they are still in the research stage. Today’s researchers believe fuel cells to be able to reach 80% efficiency, similar to other fuel cell technologies. In order to carry out the calculation that follows, a 40% efficiency will be considered, as both the old circuits and the poor performances of the robot systems would highly affect this system.

 

For this reason Groening’s main character is forced by its old age to drink more than in his youth and above all, to drink much more than the other robots to produce the same amount of energy.

 

Just how much ‘fuel’ does Bender have to drink?

 

According to statements extracted from the same series, his consumption of beer is "enough to make a human constantly intoxicated" or rather, "almost enough to kill a person". For this reason, it can be estimated that a common person needs around 8 L of regular 3% alcohol beer to get 'extremely inebriated' and nearly die, and at least one litre of beer per hour to keep the alcohol levels constant. Therefore, in a day he probably drinks 24 L, totalling a yearly consumption of 8760 litres. Amounts of consumption that would kill a human in no time!

 

This does not mean that Bender cannot feel the effects of alcohol himself, on the contrary, his fame in the robot world comes from when he drank a full keg of beer (more or less 58 Litres) and got drunk at the University of Mars.

 

Given his outdated hardware system, it would be possible for him to achieve, at maximum, half of the efficiency of an up-to-date system, so he will get about 30 mL of ethanol per litre of beer. Considering the various inefficiencies of Bender's systems, the amount of alcohol consumed turns into just under 1.8 kWh per day as the low heating value (LHV) for the ethanol is 6.28 kWh/L. His average power for its functioning will therefore be 750W, which equals a powerful home computer. Interestingly enough, this value is also very similar to what is required for a human.

 

Although this quantity is quite low, it can easily allow all the needs of the robot to work and survive the day!

 

 by Jacopo Sala

The CommUnity Post

 


CommUnity Post Review Team: Irena Dukovska, Tara Trafton, and Rudolph Santarromana

 


More about Jacopo Sala:

Nerd inside, Pirate English lover and geek for fun, I dream one day to win an IgNobel. In my spare time I am a 3rd generation PV enthusiast and a circular economy supporter.

Dear CommUnity friends,

As some of you may know, I will soon go to Africa (Ghana) as a volunteer with Crystal Ghana, an NGO that supports education and sustainability.

As a personal initiative, I want to run a workshop during which Ghanian students will assemble small lamps powered with a solar cell and a battery. The lamps charge during the day and provide light at night and can be used by families without access to electricity or by students to read or study at night.

This will be done with solar lamp kits, which are produced by the social enterprise LED Safari (http://ledsafari.com/). The cost of each solar lamp kit is €13 and I am aiming to provide at least 50 solar kits for the summer camp in August this year.

The beautiful side of this initiative is that, rather than simply providing a ready-made product, it aims to educate the Ghanaian youths about sustainability and the power of renewable energy as well as empowering them in building and maintaining the lamps.

I would like to ask everyone’s support with a donation to buy the lamp kits and make this project possible! If you are not in the position to donate, please share this post on your social media!

Moreover, if you are interested in doing a volunteering experience and would like to know more about Crystal Ghana, do not hesitate to get in touch with me.

Please see the link for more information about the project and for providing your contribution.

Thank you for supporting this initiative and thereby the education and empowerment of Ghanaian students!

Closing the plenary sessions at the Forum. All photos credit to the SEforALL flickr account.

To most, the 2nd and 3rd of May in Lisbon was average for this time of year. The weather was typical for springtime, masters students went to class, professionals went to work, and many undertook their normal activities. These days were, however, filled with unique activities, unbeknownst to many outside of the space working to provide sustainable energy to the globe. Lisbon hosted the Sustainable Energy for All (SEforALL) Forum where over two days on the 2nd and 3rd of May, dignitaries, company executives, and representatives from global organizations including the International Energy Administration (IEA), International Renewable Energy Administration (IRENA), World Health Organization (WHO), World Bank Group, and United Nations (UN) converged to discuss, plan, and execute initiatives toward Sustainable Development Goal 7 ensuring energy access for all. A few InnoEnergy students and CommUnity members, including myself, had the privilege to attend.

The Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) were established by the UN as part of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development. These 17 goals cover a range of issues from poverty, to energy access, and gender equality. SDG 7 is to “ensure access to affordable, reliable, sustainable, and modern energy for all.” Within that context, SEforALL is the nonprofit organization formed by the UN to execute SDG 7 by mobilizing and empowering several actors. As part of their work, they bring together these actors at a yearly Forum. At the opening presentation, the current progress since the initiation of the goals was presented. SDG 7 is divided into a few main sub-categories: Electrification, Clean Cooking, Renewable Energy, and Energy Efficiency

Laura Cozzi, Head of the division of Energy Demand Outlook of the IEA, presented the current status of Electrification with good news. She showed that for the first time in history, the absolute number of people lacking access to electricity has fallen. This is due to the fact that for the first time, the rate of growth of those gaining access to electricity was more than the rate of growth of the population itself. It currently sits at 87.3% of the population electrified as measured in 2016, an increase from 83.5% in 2010.

Maria Neira, Director of the Department of Public Health, Environmental and Social Determinants of Health of the WHO presented the current status of Clean Cooking, demonstrating that the percentage of the population with access to clean cooking grew by 1% between 2010 and 2016 (from 58% to 59% respectively). At the current rate, 73% of the world’s population would have access to clean cooking by 2030, leaving a huge gap to the 2030 SDG 7 target of 100%.

Elizabeth Press, Director of Planning and Programme Support of IRENA, presented the current status of Renewable Energy, showing that less than a 1% gain in the total final energy consumption from 2010 to 2016 (from 16.7% to 17.5% respectively) was achieved. This leaves a projected 21% of global final energy coming from renewable sources by 2030.

Vivien Foster, Global Lead for Energy Economics, Markets & Institutions in the Energy and Extractives Global Practice of the World Bank, presented the current status of Energy Efficiency, which is measured in energy needed to produce one unit of economic output or megajoules per gross domestic product measured at purchasing power parity (MJ/GDP PPP USD). Among the indicators in SDG 7, this is the only one which should fall, and as of 2015 it stood at 5.27 MJ/GDP PPP 2011$. According to Vivien’s presentation of the target, as of 2016 the compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of improvement in energy intensity (another measure of improvement of energy efficiency) was at 2.2%, an improvement from 1.3% in 2010. The projection is that the CAGR comes to 2.4% by 2030, which is 0.2% shy of the target of a CAGR of 2.6% by 2030. Further information and tracking on the indicators including how countries score in the various aspects of SDG7 can be found in the newly launched tracking tool of SDG7, also launched at the Forum.

It was apparent that there was still much to do to advance SDG 7. Rounding out the opening sessions, António Luís Guerra Nunes Mexia (CEO of EDP), Fernando Medina (Mayor of Lisbon), and Rachel Kyte (CEO and Special Representative of the UN Secretary General) gave speeches of the importance of this goal and how to achieve it. UN Secretary General António Guterres himself made an ‘appearance’ (sending in a pre-recorded video specifically for the event’s attendees), stating that “One billion people still lack electricity. Far more needs to be done to advance renewable and efficient energy in all sectors. From industries to transportation, from cities to rural areas… Let us invest in the future, not the past.”

The remainder of the event saw panel discussions about topics including the titles:

  • Electricity for All in Sub-Saharan Africa
  • Clean Fuels for All
  • Cooling for All
  • Energy in Humanitarian Settings
  • Financing the Transition
  • Catalyzing Decentralized Renewable Energy Markets

Several interactive panel sessions discussing transportation, job markets and development in the energy sector, and many more topics were covered.

Having attended many conferences across a wide spectrum of topics from construction, to utilities, and now sustainable development goals, this one was particularly interesting and educating from my point of view. It is not often that one can see the Minister of Energy of Uganda, the Executive Vice President of Mastercard, and the director of the UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR) have a panel discussion on “Energy in Humanitarian Settings”. In this talk, it was interesting to hear the Ugandan Minister mention the refugee crisis of his country where over a million refugees have sought asylum within the past couple years. To this comment, one of the CEOs of a Solar Company operating in East Africa said that the same number of people have also entered Germany in the same amount of time, demonstrating how there are the same humanitarian issues in the developed as well as the developing world. The conversation that ensued was quite profound, and something I was fortunate to be present for as the audience was filled with distinguished attendees themselves- founders of humanitarian organizations and dignitaries of governments alike.

As one CommUnity Volunteer put it:

“Volunteering at the SEforALL Forum was a unique experience. Both speakers and attendees were eager to share their stories, to network and to work together on all different aspects involved in ensuring access to affordable and modern energy for all. Seeing people placed at the center of the decision making process in sustainable development was probably the biggest achievement of the event. And just as important, the forum gave the chance to all its participants to interrogate themselves about what is not working in the energy sector, so that securing energy access for more than one billion people [who currently lack it] can be achieved faster. If we are to truly advance gender equality, social inclusion and women’s empowerment in the energy sector, this is the kind of inspiring events we need.” - Fabia Miorelli

Over the course of two days in the beginning of May, people with the power to execute initiatives toward a cleaner, more equal, more sustainable world converged upon Lisbon, and I was struck by many things during this short time. While there exists a gender imbalance in many sectors today, one would not immediately see this demonstrated in the sustainable energy sector by attending the event due to the near parity in the gender representation of the speakers--more than 40% of the speakers in the main sessions were female. This includes the four presenters of the current status of the aspects of SDG 7, discussed earlier, who are leaders in their respective global organizations.

The opportunity to attend such an event expanded my horizons, and my network. I believe the same can be said for the other CommUnity members who seized the opportunity and answered the call on the platform to volunteer at this event. I encourage all interested in such discussions to keep an eye out for potential opportunities like this shared throughout the CommUnity. 

You can view images from the event on the SEforALL flickr account. Some selected images around the forum below from the flickr account:

 

By Rudolph Santarromana

The CommUnity Post


CommUnity Post Review Team: Miles Weinstein and Zaid Bin Farooq

This article was originally published on The Conversation. It is republished here under permission by the Author. Banner Image: The Khi One Solar Power Plant in South Africa. Credit: Wikicommons.


Electricity lifts people out of poverty and improves their health and standards of living. Yet 1.3 billion of the world’s people don’t have access to it. And more than half of them are in sub-Saharan Africa.

Getting affordable electricity to the sub-Saharan population is a multi-faceted challenge. Demand is expected to increase by 4% year on year, but the supply shortage already results in frequent blackouts. People are forced to use expensive and inefficient generators which run on fossil fuels to provide reliable power.

If sub-Saharan Africa is to meet the UN Sustainable Development Goals, including Goal 7 to ensure access to affordable, reliable and modern energy for all and goal 13 to combat climate change and its impact, electricity should not only be affordable and reliable, but also from clean energy sources.

The region needs a significant increase in investments in renewable energy projects. Many economic and political challenges stand in the way. But there are ways to make renewable energy projects more attractive and competitive, and to turn these into more sustainable ways of living.

Most of the developed world has started to move away from dirty energy sources (fossil fuels) to clean energy. Since sub-Saharan Africa does not already have a lot of dirty energy supply in place, it makes perfect sense for the region to invest in renewable energy sources. Renewables are able to meet most of the region’s electricity demand. And they have never been more cost effective.

One problem is the weak electricity grids south of the Sahara. Take the electricity grid of Nigeria, for example. It’s the continent’s largest economy together with South Africa, but it runs mostly on private generators and will struggle to integrate large amounts of intermittent solar and wind power. Big investments in energy storage systems or backup capacity are needed for when the sun does not shine or when the wind is not blowing. Concentrating solar power technology is one of these systems.

Concentrating solar power is based on solar thermal technology to store power, which has the advantage to provide electricity to communities when the sun goes down. The technology uses different mirror configurations to collect and focus the sun lights energy onto a receiver. The solar energy is turned into heat, which is stored in molten salts, which is used to generate steam and in turn this steam drives a turbine to generate electricity.

Sub-Saharan Africa has the sunshine that is needed for these projects and the cost of the electricity generated has fallen in recent years. But there are still economic and political challenges to implementation.

Challenges and barriers

Renewable energy projects are expensive to set up and cheap to run compared to conventional power sources based on fossil fuels. The investment and financing costs are the dominant drivers of the electricity cost. And the risks are seen as higher in sub-Saharan Africa, which makes financing more expensive than in the developed world. Finance providers worry about political, regulatory, financial and administrative barriers. It can take a long time to get permission for projects.

A different view of the Khi Solar One project in the Northern Cape of South Africa. Image Credit: Planet.com

 

Sub-Saharan Africa has several power regions where participating countries trade electricity to improve the reliability of the whole electricity system. The trade is still limited, though, partly because of the lack of interconnections. Long-distance trade across power regions is particularly difficult.

An example is the controversial Inga 3 hydropower project in the Democratic Republic of Congo. The project was initially proposed in the 1950s and was supposed to have delivered 4.8 GW of power. Most of the power was destined for export to South Africa and the balance for mining operations in the DRC. But the project was halted in 2013 because of investors’ concerns.

They pointed to the project’s flawed economics and the country’s political instability. The project has since been resurrected and there are plans to double the capacity and supply excess power to Nigeria. Again, the challenge is transmission infrastructure and administrative capacity.

One way around the problem of risk and high financing costs might be to develop concentrating solar projects in the countries where risk is comparatively low.

Projects that generate and transmit electricity within a single power region may have a better chance of success. They could also take advantage of local manufacturing capacity to reduce the costs of components.

An example is the South African Independent Power Producer programme, in which producers bid to supply energy to the grid. The programme, which has recently completed its fourth cycle of bids, has stimulated the local economy. For instance, a local glass manufacturer makes the reflector mirrors for a large concentrating solar plant in the Northern Cape province.

If solar power projects are to succeed in African countries, it’s key to make finance less risky, to strengthen institutional capacity so that regions can co-operate, and to improve domestic logistical infrastructure.

 

By Mercè Labordena - Research Associate, ETH Zurich Department of Environmental Systems Science

In Collaboration with The CommUnity Post


Disclosure Statement: Mercè Labordena received funding from the European Research Council Consolidator Grant 2012-313553 for the scientific research underlying the article.


How do we become and empower change agents to achieve a sustainable energy future?


 

Figure 1: How do I become a change agent?

On Saturday, 2nd of June 2018, Tiago Mendes (Open Space Studio) and I, Falko Döring (CommUnity by InnoEnergy Manager) conducted a 90-minute workshop with almost 50 participants to co-create on the important question “How do we become and empower change agents to achieve a sustainable energy future?”. The time pressure was high, but with the right tuning, we managed to build a strong community feeling between the participants and a good understanding of what we need to do! Curious on the results? Continue reading!

The average participant profile can be described as a young, proactive, multidisciplinary and well-educated student, 20-25 years old, who is very conscious about the impact we are leaving on the world. Sustainability was an important topic in many of the discussions throughout the whole event.

What are the 2 or 3 major energy challenges in your personal environment?

After grouping the participants by their locations, where they currently live throughout Europe, we invited them to talk about and define the energy challenges in their personal environment. Here is a list of some of the challenges identified by the participants:

  • Phasing out of coal
  • Trade-off thinking: Jobs vs. environmental protection
  • Storage of green energy
  • Air pollution
  • Deforestation
  • Decentralization
  • Lack of public examples
  • Sustainable mobility
  • Meat consumption
  • And the list goes on…

Figure 2: Energy challenges faced and expressed by our young generation

One has to understand, that depending on your demographic background, the impact of energy challenges you are facing vary. Unfortunately, there was no time to rank which energy challenges are most pressing in certain locations.

With these burning challenges in mind, it was time to talk about what we can do on an individual level.

How do I become a change agent?

The term “change agent” is a widely used term for a person who drives change. It is often misunderstood as a title which is only given to outstanding persons, as the leader of a change process. Therefore, in our group, we emphasized that everyone who contributes to a change automatically becomes a change agent. We also identified certain traits, characteristics and/or skills related to being a change agent.

  • Disciplined
  • Confidant
  • Open Minded
  • Self-Starter
  • Competitive
  • Creative
  • Determined
  • Strong people skills
  • Strong work ethic
  • Passionate

 

Knowing the challenges in your environment, that we all can be change agents, and what kind of traits we need to bring along, we then reflected as individuals on ourselves as part of the process of solving these challenges. We pictured ourselves, where we are right now and identified where we would like to be, to chart a course for us to follow! We then shared these important insights with two other people in the room, gave feedback to each other, and later in the original groups. The results are as diverse as the people in the room. Therefore, I can only highlight some of them:

 

  • Sustainable clothing
  • Become vegan
  • Shop without plastic
  • Initiatives at work(reduce plastic in offices, more bio products in the office kitchen, less printing,..)
  • Work with NGO’s
  • Self-production: veggies, hygiene products, clothes
  • Set up sustainable stores
  • Recycling
  • And many more…

 

A team of change agents

Successful change agents involve more than the passion, ideas, characteristics and/or skills of the individual. It requires a team to truly deliver an impact. In order to build a team, you need to be able to create understanding in others of the value you want to bring to the world. Therefore, being able to share your story is essential. We finished the workshop in a big circle, giving everyone the opportunity to share their main takeaways from this experience together.

Figure 3: No mobile phones and no ego allowed!

The feedback was overwhelmingly positive. People felt empowered throughout the process of the workshop and we successfully moved beyond theory and actually delivered an impact. Last, it was clear for everyone that the real challenge lies in taking the positive energy and the focus outside of the workshop. There the next big question is:


How do we maintain the feeling and movement created in this 90-minute workshop?


I would like to thank Open Space Studio’s Tiago Mendes, my co-designer and co-facilitator, and all of the CommUnity members, who supported us as catalysts: Timo Methler, Krishna Reddy, Aleksandra Radwanska, Zaheer Ahamed, Marco Costa and Lucas Schreiner. Finally, thanks to all the participants who kept their mobile phones untouched, checked their egos at the door and engaged with a high energy level. Well done!

You can find all the pictures from this event and others in Our Flickr Account


By Falko Döring

In Collaboration with The CommUnity Post

 


CommUnity Post Reviewers: Tara Trafton, Jacopo Sala, and Rudolph Santarromana

On April 4th 2018, The CommUnity in Barcelona held the panel discussion event: The Clean Energy Package - Policy for all Europeans at the CCCB cultural centre. The main focus of the discussion with energy specialists was the The Clean Energy Package, an ambitious policy released by the European Commission (EC) in 2016 with the intention of driving the European Union (EU) energy goals. Following the release, the EC aimed to have the information about the new policy disseminated to energy professionals and EU citizens. The CommUnity by InnoEnergy, a hub of thought and inspiration for sustainable energy change agents, was the perfect means by which to have the information shared.


 

Inspired by events on the same topic by the CommUnity in Brussels and Lisbon, and in the same week that the Experts Reports for Energy Transition in Spain was published, the Barcelona CommUnity sought five panelists for a thought-provoking panel discussion on some of the key issues of the wide-ranging package of measures, namely, the new electricity market design. This panel was formed by a wide range of experts including Pep Salas, an independent Energy Consultant and founder of SmartGrid.CAT; Pedro González González, Regulation Director of UNESA (Spanish Electricity Industry Association); Dr. Enric Bartlett, Associate Prof. in Public Law ESADE; Santi Martínez, CEO of Estabanell; and Alejandro de Roca, Operational Director from Magnus Commodities.

 

The event started with a presentation of what the CommUnity by InnoEnergy is and a short introduction to the the Clean Energy Package by Chris Parker, local manager in Barcelona, and followed by a short presentation of Alicia Carrasco, CEO of Olivo Energy, who moderated and led the path throughout the event. The primary targets of the policy were briefly presented: putting energy efficiency first, achieving global leadership in renewable energies, and providing a fair deal for consumers. Some legislation has sparked heated debate regarding their efficacy and achievability and there is a lot of controversy in various aspects of the regulation that the moderator covered through different questions: fuel poverty, smart grids, participation of consumers, distributed energy generation, the new role of transmission system operators (TSOs) and distribution system operators (DSOs), etc. Each issue was discussed from the Spanish perspective, considering the peculiarities of the national energy system and its users.

 

The new energy package aims to put the customer in the centre of the new market design. The panelists agreed it is important to have in mind that the user has no experience being in this role. An important prerequisite is to disseminate information about energy generation and usage to activate and engage the customers. According to Santi Martinez, the mindset of the average customer is not yet ready to adopt such an active role. Spanish consumers hardly understand their energy bills and they are misinformed to the point that many people believe that installing PV cells on their rooftop is forbidden. From this starting point, the adoption of new initiatives in which the customer is an important actor may take longer than in other European countries.

 

LEFT: Alicia Carrasco presenting to the audience as the moderator before the panel discussion; RIGHT: Enric Bartlett (left), Santi Martinez Farrero (centre) and Alejandro de Roca (right) in discussion.

 

The topics of flexibility and the role of the aggregator were brought to the discussion several times, highlighting the importance that the new framework will have in providing all the tools to create regulations and ease their deployment. It is yet to be decided at national level who will take the role of the aggregator. According to Pep Salas, it is crucial to release the option of aggregation of distributed energy resources (DER) in a competitive way, reducing barriers and opening the market to new players, such as independent aggregators and energy communities that manage their own flexibility, to untap the potential of these resources. In response to this new paradigm, traditional market players will have to learn to cooperate with these newcomers and adjust their business models.

 

Regarding competition in the future market, providing fair and transparent rules for all the players involved will be a challenge. For example, solar based energy systems, whose capacity is expected to grow by a factor of 10 in Spain, will heavily contribute to set up a model of centralized and decentralized generation and consumption in which it will be complicated to provide rules for impartial and transparent competition. Furthermore, the wholesale market is expensive, especially in Spain, and panelists mostly agreed that regulation should push competitiveness to lower the prices. In Spain, there are wide margins to improve competition. Specifically, in relation to priority dispatch, Pedro Gonzalez commented that new players, such as small-scale producers, should sell the energy (or other services) in the same conditions as the rest of the players to ensure fair competition.

 

The new European policies offer both opportunities and challenges to reduce Energy Poverty according to Dr. Bartlett. Furthermore, the new design will offer equal conditions for all players to participate in the market and, by means of aggregation, will enable a reduction of  energy procurement costs for consumers. Nevertheless, Bartlett sent a message to the EC to be careful not to leave things like they are right now. In addition, the importance of Fuel Poverty must be dealt from a general country level approach, not just from the electricity sector.

 

Both Alejandro de Roca and Pedro González brought up the importance of stable legislation if the EU wants big industrial consumers and investors to step ahead and make any decisions. Big players are reluctant to move first in scenarios where rules can vary in the short term. They are preparing and settling all the actions to take, but they are aware that law in Spain advances slowly and with a high grade of uncertainty.

 

One of the topics that brought the most controversy to the discussion was the cost of the transition and who is responsible for what. In a scenario where a notable capacity of renewables must be deployed in a system with current overcapacity, it is unclear how the deployment should take place. It is mandatory to install new renewable generation to accomplish the EU goals, but there is a huge cost for dismantling the current infrastructure based on fossil fuels. The panelists agreed that the bill of the transitions can be very expensive if not handled properly. Important topics discussed regarding greater renewable energy integration included long-term price signals, capacity mechanism and increased interconnections to mitigate effects of over-capacity. Pep Salas, who has recently participated in the elaboration of the Experts Report for Energy Transition in Spain promoted by the national government, pointed out that these costs must be shared with other final energy users, such as the natural gas, gasoline or diesel consumers. Taxes on CO2 and making the most contaminant technologies pay more were also proposed to lower the cost of the energy transition.  Another idea raised in the discussion was to restructure the current tariffs structure in the new framework.

 

It was mostly agreed that to make these initiatives possible, a strong physical infrastructure at the transmission and distribution level is key. Pedro González summarized the efforts to prepare the network for the future to be focused on Digitalization, Automatization and Communications protocols. In line with the technologies needed to make possible the future market design, panelists also mentioned some of the innovations to be pushed forward. These included data management (e.g. access to smart meter data and its analysis), load shedding technologies, blockchain and smart contracts, aggregation enabling technologies and electrification of other sectors.

 

Another relevant topic that was raised as the event was coming to an end was the implementation of the EU Directives at national level, which is known as the transposition of the directive to each state’s conditions. The individual adoption of common rules has been an ongoing problem in the EU. It is not strange to see, at least in Spain, how it can take too long for the Directives to be transposed from the European framework to the National level and how the result can even widely differ from the original EU proposal.

 

After the panel discussion a Q & A session took place. Some of the topics brought up by the audience further extended the discussion on investment and competition, legal stability, the importance of bringing new business models in the game, short-term markets and interconnection capabilities. Within the audience, Carmen Gimeno, secretary general from GEODE (Association of European Independent Distribution Companies) who is actively taking part in the debates in Brussels regarding these regulations, kindly shared her firsthand insight into the 'trialogue' phase and how all these topics are seen from the European Council, the European Parliament and the European Commission. As Carmen Gimeno pointed out, there are many other controversial topics that must be considered when debating about the new electricity market design at European level, such as bidding zones, regional operations centers at transmission level or regulated prices but these could not be addressed during the event due to time limitations. According to her, the negotiations on these topics will take place starting July 2018, when Austria takes over from Bulgaria in the presidency of the European Council.

 

LEFT: Pedro González answering a question from the audience; RIGHT: Q&A session underway with the audience.

 

There was a lot to discuss and to digest from this three-hour event that raised the importance of acting fast and keeping the debate alive. The design of the new electricity market presents challenges and opportunities, but it is crucial that some of the involved agents take the lead with different projects. Spain can serve as an example in some of the fields that it leads, but should as well take the opportunity to learn from other European countries that are ahead in many of these topics and learn from their experience.

 

The event concluded with a networking session where attendants could enjoy some drinks and food while continuing the discussion.

 

To have better understanding of the topics addressed in the discussion and the questions asked by the audience, the whole session video will be soon uploaded to the CommUnity Platform. In the meantime, please, share and comment!

 

 By: Alvaro Picatoste Ruilope, Chris Parker, and Ignacio Zubieta Ochoa

In Collaboration with The CommUnity Post

 

 

Event Organizers:

Chris Parker

Nicole Nembhard

Sahilaushafnur Rosyadi

Alvaro Picatoste Ruilope

Aleksandra Radwanska

Leon Haupt

Ignacio Zubieta Ochoa 

 

 


CommUnity Post Reviewers: Jacopo Sala, Tara Trafton, and Rafael Martins

In a globalized world as the one we live in today, and with countless opportunities available, getting involved as a student into projects that have a positive impact should not be challenging. It is the perfect time in life to learn and get to experience the possibility of putting into practice the knowledge acquired, creating a positive impact.

However, it has been found that such initiatives are not that easy to join, and moreover, it is something students are really interested in.

Opening speech by MAD

Opening speech by MAD

 

With this, it was clear that to satisfy the students demand of opportunities in the area it was necessary to create a bridge that CONNECTS both students and not only international  development projects, but also international opportunities.

It has been with the purpose of solving this lack of opportunities that Seeding Impact was created. Since October 2017 the team has been active by working on different aspects, such as:

 

  • Team organization: Since the very first presentation of the start-up in Budapest, after pitching it, some members joined the team, that had to be structured by tasks and functions.

 

  • Tasks distribution: Every member of the team was given specific tasks, such as contacting potential partners, creating a logo, a business plan/model or doing some research in the NGO area.

 

  • Event organization: Once the first challenge had been selected, the organization of the first event offered by Seeding Impact became a priority. The aim has been to propose the selected challenge to students, so by forming teams they could come up with different ideas to solve it.

 

It was with this aim that the event “Seeding Impact goes MAD to Uganda” took place. Seeding Impact, together with the partner MAD (Make A Difference) brought a challenge presented by a local Ugandian entrepreneur, which students could take part of:

 

  • Samuel Malinga, a MAD Entrepreneur, is willing to unlock the key challenges he is facing to be able to scale the access to Clean Water and Sanitation in Uganda, and wants Seeding Impact to create the right proposals for this to happen.

 

The event took place on the Sunday 8th April, from 11:00h to 20.00h. Firstly,  the presentation of Seeding Impact, MAD, and the challenge in which the teams would have to work later on took place, as well as an inspirational talk by one of the MAD members attending the event. This ended up being very useful to get an idea about the context behind the event, the purpose of it.

After the lunch break, every team started with the co-creation session, working on the development of the proposed challenge and getting feedback from Samuel himself through the two MAD attendees. The impression he got from the asked questions was very positive and also pointed out that he gained new insights from it.

 

One of the participants during the proposal pitch

 

During the last phase of the event, every team had to pitch their ideas to the jury within a time limit of two minutes. Then, a winner team was selected and given the price of a workshop made by Entrepreneurs Without Borders, one of the many Seeding Impact partners. With this workshop, the team will learn more about the working dynamics to be followed in an international development project.

 

Having done this event means that Seeding Impact is not only starting to create value for itself as a business/start-up, but also for its partners. The attendees representing MAD were really satisfied with the outcomes brought by the teams and actually showed a lot of flexibility regarding the trip to Uganda, to increase its impact.

 

This is only the first step for Seeding Impact to open the area of international development projects for students and professionals, contributing to create better solutions and spreading the importance of social entrepreneurship.

 

Group picture after finishing the event

 

On the 26th of April, the Stockholm CommUnity organised a panel discussion linked to the “Energy Policy” initiative on the theme of battery storage regulations. The title itself represents the core of the discussion, whether energy policies in Europe serve as a stimulation or an obstacle for the players involved in the sector. For this reason, we invited Bo Nomark, InnoEnergy thematic leader for Smart Electric Grids and Energy Storage, Martin Anderlind, Head of Business development at Northvolt, and Alexandra Andersson, Project Manager in Power Circle. The event took place at Norrsken House in the centre of Stockholm and was welcomed by an enthusiastic audience of 50+ attendees composed of young professionals, InnoEnergy alumni and students. 

 

The event was kick-started by our local CommUnity manager, Laura Perez, that introduced the CommUnity by InnoEnergy and the Energy Policy Events initiative to the audience. This initiative started in 2016 with the aim of educating professionals and students on the latest European energy policies. As a result of the programme, two master classes were created  in Bruxelles as well as related CommUnity events in Lisbon, Barcelona, and now Stockholm.

 

 

Bo Normark, InnoEnergy thematic leader for smart grids and storage

 

Laura's introduction was followed by Bo Normark, the event moderator, who explained what InnoEnergy represents in Europe in terms of innovation, education and business creation. The presentation introduced the latest storage trends worldwide, energy policies in Europe and their different interpretations throughout European countries. During his presentation, Bo explained that, in February 2017, InnoEnergy was given the task by the European Union to develop a European strategy for battery storage starting from raw materials all the way up to recycling--or ‘cradle to cradle’. The European Battery Alliance was then created which is currently composed of 100+ industrial stakeholders with the common goal of developing a European battery storage market. 

 

Martin Anderlind, Head of Business development at Northvolt

 

After this detailed introduction, the main portion of the event began with the presentation of the two panelists. Martin Anderlind introduced Northvolt's ambition to become the first European battery cell manufacturer and the producers of the cleanest battery storage solution in the world. Then, Alexandra Andersson talked about her work in Power Circle, which is a public interest organisation dealing with electrification and storage solutions for sustainable energy. Power Circle gathers a network of 60 energy companies with the aim of investigating and demonstrating the role of electricity in creating a sustainable energy system.

 

Alexandra Andersson, Project Manager in Power Circle

 

The panel discussion started questioning which are the main obstacles hindering storage development, knowledge or regulations and followed by analysing the reaction to new technologies of traditional electricity companies compared to startups and entrepreneurs. Significant obstacles were identified in regulations regarding ‘grey areas’ and taxing systems. Additionally, the speakers highlighted the role that new startups with an entrepreneurial mindset could play in the future electricity system. The speakers identified different sectors where energy storage could have the biggest impact (from mining to the electricity grid) and outlined a potential future roadmap for the European market. Throughout the whole event, the discussion was dynamic thanks to the juxtaposition of the two different points of view brought by our speakers: Martin was more business oriented and Alexandra had closer contact with public institutions, regulations and big electricity companies. The panel discussion was followed by a rich Q&A session where the speakers answered the numerous questions from the audience ranging from technological specifications to market structure.

 

The panelists: from left to right Bo Normark, Alexandra Andersson and Martin Anderlin

 

The atmosphere during the networking session that followed the event was particularly active with various groups discussing the takeaways of the panel together with the professionals that were attending the event. The final impression is that battery storage will affect every sector that is dealing with energy and it will create numerous opportunities for innovative companies and startups thanks to the support of the ambitions of the European Commission.

 

For additional information, the link to the live stream of the event is available here: EIT InnoEnergy - Energy Storage Policy – Stimulation or Obstacle?  

 

The Stockholm CommUnity Team (from left to right, first row to second row): Zineb AnefloussAlmudena CondeGiulia GamberiLaura PerezValentina Herrera, Lorenzo SaniLukas Keller, and Giuseppe Sgrò

 

 

By Lorenzo Sani

In Collaboration with The CommUnity Post

 

 

 


CommUnity Post Reviewers: Tara Trafton, Jacopo Sala, and Rudolph Santarromana

The Sustainability Supplement is a series of research articles prepared by InnoEnergy Master’s School students throughout several European locations. The series provides opinions and commentary on various topics including energy resources, energy efficiency, sustainability and other topics of interest. Any opinions expressed in these articles are those of the writer and do not necessarily reflect opinions of the Forum by InnoEnergy or the Community Post 


 

After years of being pushed to the sideline of electricity generation, with the industry having suffered from decline and stagnation, nuclear energy might be on the verge of delivering on the promises made since its first introduction in the 50’s. Projected increased global electricity demand and growing the importance of energy security, combined with the need to limit carbon emissions, are the main factors that lead to the belief that nuclear power will revive after a period of decline due to uncertainty about the safety. A Nuclear Renaissance could be forthcoming, catalysed by the further development of existing or new nuclear technologies.

 


Figure 1. Number of nuclear reactors connected to the grid and nuclear capacity.

 

The Renaissance – literally translated as ‘rebirth’ – is a period in European civilization that followed immediately after the Middle Ages. This period is characterized by a renewed surge in interest for the culture and values of the Classical Antiquity; the period that preceded the Middle Ages. Admittedly, it might be a bit far-fetched to compare the evolution of nuclear electricity generation with almost a millennium of human cultural development, but at the 60th anniversary of commercial nuclear electricity,  numerous similarities can be observed.

The Classical ‘Nuclearity’

The prospect of a disastrous weapon being turned into a peaceful resource for civil use, that was envisioned to supply electricity so cheap and plentiful that there was no point in even measuring it, appealed to both the general public and governments. The knowledge obtained during WWII, together with the enthusiasm about nuclear electricity production, translated into the first commercial nuclear electricity plant that was opened in Calder Hall, UK in 1956.

After Queen Elizabeth II opened the first nuclear electricity plant, hundreds of other plants would quickly follow. Until 1989, nuclear reactors were connected to the European grid at a rate of about five or six per year. The total installed nuclear capacity initially grew at a more modest rate due to the small capacity of the first nuclear power plants. In the early 70’s, however, after the 10 GWe milestone was reached, the capacity started growing with an average of almost 35% per year to reach a total of 123 GWe by 1988. This growth is mainly due to technological advancements and economies of scale which reduced the costs of producing nuclear electricity.

In this early period, with the use of the first reactors, steep learning curves and high growth rates can be referred to as the ‘Classical Nuclearity’. An allegory with the Classical Antiquity can be made in the sense that this period gave birth to the first scientists ever and is characterized by an unprecedented level of learning and wisdom with the introduction of numerous novelties and economic growth.

Post-Chernobyl Period

As is commonly known, after the Classical Antiquity, the Middle Ages was the next main chapter in European history. Put in an extreme way, this era was a dark, and dirty period characterized by cultural and intellectual impoverishment. The transition between two periods does not happen overnight, but there is usually an event that marks the transition. Similar to the fall of Rome that crushed the dream of cultural and political unity that Rome once was and marks the beginning of the Middle Ages, the Chernobyl nuclear disaster of 1986 marks the transition to a dark period for nuclear power in Europe.

The transition from the Classical Nuclearity to the ‘post-Chernobyl period’ began in the late 70’s with the Three Mile Island incident in the US. From then on, nuclear reactor construction began to decline in the US as well as in the EU. Despite that, the number of reactors connected to the grid, as well as the total installed capacity, were still growing mainly due to a high number of gigawatt-capacity reactors coming online in France – which still has the world’s highest share of nuclear electricity in its generation mix today.

The true turning point for Europe was the 1986 accident in Chernobyl, Ukraine (former Soviet Union). This accident significantly decreased public acceptance and induced stricter government regulations. It served as a catalyst to put nuclear power totally out of favour in Europe where it already faced many barriers. Nuclear power faced an electricity generation environment with a focus on short-term returns and high interest rates. Nuclear power was further threatened by its cost overruns, tightened regulations and the advent of cheap gas technologies.

The post-Chernobyl period is characterized by a stagnation of the growth of nuclear capacity. The capacity of reactors coming online only slightly surpassed those of the reactors that were retired. The overall capacity grew slightly and started to decline from 2004 onwards. Although there was an overall upward trend in the electricity consumption in Europe, the share of nuclear electricity remained fairly constant, amounting to about 11-12%. A further downward trend in nuclear electricity production can be observed after the 2011 Fukushima disaster which might have led to the accelerated retirements of nuclear power plants.

Figure 2. Shares of electricity generation from 1965 to 2014

Renaissance of Nuclear Energy

Facing all of these historical barriers and downfalls, one  might expect nuclear energy to die a silent death, but this is unlikely. A brief outlook to the future allows the completion of the comparison with human history. The Renaissance was partly a result from a change in philosophy, from God-centric--oppression by the Church, towards a centralization on man with an emphasis on freedom. During this period, great advances occurred in the world of science. An allegory can be made with the electricity sector that currently is centred on fossil fuels in a world that feels ‘oppressed’ by carbon emissions but experiencing a change of ‘philosophy’ towards a clean energy future. Similar to the Renaissance which became a great era due to art and unprecedented advances in science, the renaissance of nuclear energy can only become great by advancements in reactor technologies and the application of new concepts.

First let us take a look at the new philosophy. The world needs to shift to a cleaner electricity production and high hopes are on renewables. Being highly intermittent and difficult to predict, there is still a need for a clean energy source to provide a stable base load of electricity that can satisfy demand, achieve security of supply and minimize carbon dioxide emissions. This is where nuclear energy comes in.

Forecasts about future nuclear capacity vary strongly among the different scenarios taken into account and change every year. On a global scale, the nuclear capacity is expected to rise significantly mainly due to Asia, South- and Central-America and Russia. In Europe, however, the nuclear capacity is expected to decrease significantly by 2030 as a wave of nuclear plant retirement is coming up followed by an increase in capacity by 2040.

These forecasts provide an indication of what might happen, but due to the high number of factors in play, a lot can change between now and 2040. Similar to the Renaissance, in which rich families such as the Medici family provided crucial sponsorship that led to the flourishing of new arts and knowledge, the renaissance of nuclear energy will depend on investments as well. A good start for the renaissance of nuclear power has been given by the European Commission which indicated that it wants massive investments in nuclear power – about 550 billion euros by 2050 – as it will be a necessity for Europe.

Although investments are of crucial importance, another main driver will be technological advancements in nuclear technology that are necessary to boost nuclear power. Although there are many promising projects going on right now, I want to highlight three general paths that have the potential to tackle some of the main barriers to the renaissance.

Technology

A first advancement is the focus on developing small modular reactors that can be combined with each other for a higher capacity plant. These modular reactors can be built in central factories and shipped to the nuclear sites. Therefore, they can be built for only a fraction of the cost of a conventional nuclear plant and will be cost-competitive with other technologies. This technology has high potential to break the barrier that the high upfront investment costs pose on nuclear power.

Secondly, nuclear reactors based on molten salts are being developed which are essentially immune to meltdowns and are capable of running on nuclear waste that  abounds from our nuclear past. This will help tackle the barrier that nuclear waste disposal problems pose on nuclear power.

Last but not least, a nuclear fusion reactor – the holy grail of nuclear power – is being constructed as a first experiment in France under the name ITER. This basically imitates the working principle of the sun and theoretically will be able to produce energy highly efficiently without long-lived radioactive waste. The reactor is expected to be completed by 2035 and is funded by 45% by the EU. Other similar projects are in development, but it needs to be said that electricity from fusion reactors is not expected before 2050.

It is up to us and the industry

Thus it can be concluded that the life path of European nuclear energy has been very similar to that of European history, but that the Renaissance still needs to be confirmed. Nuclear power production was highly in favour since its introduction in 1956 but was sidelined after the Chernobyl and Fukushima accidents. Now, the necessary transition towards a clean energy future gives nuclear power the chance to live again. There is global support for this revival, but to achieve a true Renaissance it is highly dependent on itself. More specifically, technological advancements to overcome several barriers and becoming more cost-competitive are of great necessity. The purpose of this article is not to advocate the use of nuclear energy, but rather, to indicate that nuclear energy can be a strong asset for a green energy future. Therefore, society must draw from the experiences of nuclear disasters and the lessons learned to ensure that--if reactors are built--they are built with strong focus on safety, reliability, and sustainability; rather than letting this fear result in the complete abandonment of nuclear energy as a possible option for a sustainable future.  

 

By Vincent Vangeel

In Collaboration with The CommUnity Post

 


Bibliography:

‘Mapped: the world’s nuclear power plants’ – Carbonbrief.org (Published on 08/03/2016)

The History of Nuclear Energy – U.S. Department of Energy (Published in 1994)

‘ “Too Cheap to Meter” Nuclear Power Revisisted’ – IEEE Spectrum (Published 26/09/2016)

European Comission Report: Nuclear Illustrative Programme (Published on 04/04/2016)

International Energy Outlook 2016 – US Energy Information Administration

World Energy Outlook 2016 – International Energy Agency (Executive summary)

World Energy Outlook 2015 – International Energy Agency (Executive summary)

Energy Technology Perspectives 2016 – International Energy Agency

Energy, Electricity and Nuclear Power Estimates for the Period to 2050 – International Atomic Energy Agency (Published 2015)

Nuclear Power in the European Union – World Nuclear Association (October 2016)

World Energy Needs and Nuclear Power – World Nuclear Association (November 2016)

Citation of Lewis L. Strauss in a speech on September 16, 1954 as Chairman of the U.S Atomic Energy Commission: ““Our children will enjoy in their homes electrical energy too cheap to meter”.

The different “generations of nuclear technology – European commission Research & innovation

The Future of Nuclear Power: A Global and Regional Outlook (2008) H. Rogner and A. mcDonald

Eurostat: ‘Nuclear Energy Statistics’

‘Fusion power: Unlimited, free energy that harnesses the power of the Sun’ – International Business times (Published on 1/12/2016)

‘Focus: New paradigms for the nuclear energy sector’ – World Energy Council (Published on 3/05/2016)

‘Paul Wilson: Small nuclear reactors will help cut carbon’ – Wisconsin state Journal (Published on 21/05/2016)

‘Small Modular Reactors Take Large Step Forward’ – American Nuclear Society (Published on 20/07/2016)

‘New generation of nuclear reactors could consume radioactive waste as fuel’ – The guardian (Published on 2/02/2012)

‘Molten salt nuclear reactor that eats radioactive waste gets funded’ – Ryan Whitwam (Published on 15/08/2014)

‘Nuclear fusion reactor ITER's construction accelerates as cost estimate swells’ – Reuters (Published on 07/10/2016)

Overview of the ITER project on Wikipedia (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/ITER)

‘The U.S. plans to build the most advanced fusion reactor ever’ – ZME Science (Published on 29/08/2016)

‘Nuclear power faces uncertain future in Europe’ – Deutsche Welle (Accessed December 2016)

Historical data sources:

Open-power-system-data.org

BP Statistical Review (Generation data for many countries globally from 1965 to 2014)

IAEA-PRIS: Data about the number of reactors in operation and the operable capacity (1954-2016)

 


CommUnity Post Review Team: Carmine Piparo, Tara Trafton, and Rudolph Santarromana

On the 5th April 2018, CommUnity Lisbon organised yet another edition of the E2I Talks, giving continuation to the success of the first event of this type in Lisbon, which took place back in December. This time, with “Sustainable Energy Solutions - The City” being the focus of the conversation, the CommUnity Lisbon welcomed three speakers who were eager to share their knowledge and experience as entrepreneurs.

 

The panelists answer questions form the audience during the Lisbon CommUnity's Second E2I Talks (All Photos: Rafael Martins).

 

The first speaker was Pedro Ruão, founder and CEO of Omniflow, who started by challenging the audience with a pertinent question - Does great technology survive?. His company created a product called OmniLED, which is an autonomous smart energy platform powered by an omni-directional wind turbine and high efficiency solar cells for advanced applications in IoT for urban or remote locations. Before Omniflow, many other companies had attempted to enter the market with vertical wind turbines and, despite that the technology’s performance was proven and the marketing strategies spot on, they failed. Omniflow found the perfect mix between renewable energy, energy storage and final application and changed its business model several times in order to remain relevant. So, in truth, technology alone is not enough and the ability to adapt and change accordingly to the market is a must in order to succeed.

The following speaker was the co-founder of the startup Pavnext. Francisco Duarte introduced himself by sharing a story which lead the audience back to his own childhood. He was involved in a car crash which remained with him throughout his life. This incident triggered his interest in pursuing a PhD and becoming an entrepreneur to tackle the problem he once faced as a child. Pavnext is a technological pavements company whose solution consists of road pavement equipment that allows to absorb kinetic energy from vehicles and, consequently, reduce their motion speed without any action of the driver and without directly impacting the vehicle, thus promoting road safety at locations where it is required to circulate at low speed. Pavnext has been an award-winning company in several occasions and, currently, it is a Climate-KIC venture.

Francisco Duarte of Pavnext presents to an intently listening crowd.

The final speaker was Ricardo Bernardo, R&D Coordinator at Adene. Adene is the National Energy Agency in Portugal whose mission is to carry out public activities related to energy, efficient water management and efficient mobility. The main question Ricardo had for the audience was “How should buildings look like in the future?” To surprise of no one, buildings in Portugal tend to be quite below the acceptable thermal comfort levels during winter periods. With set goals of building high energy efficient and zero waste buildings and tackling energy poverty, Portugal can become a pioneer in the sector due to its mild climate and high solar radiation So, in  the end, the question should not be how buildings look like but “How should buildings feel like?”

The question and answer session shed light on to the many solutions being developed for cities.

“I enjoy being part of these events because it allows me to broadcast the message of the CommUnity not only in terms of sustainability, but also for the true feeling of empowerment you get during and after the events”, said Laura Broleri, the CommUnity Lisbon Manager, “Once you master an event like an E2I Talks, you realise how important it is to connect with the right speakers, like the great ones we had, and to be able to engage with the many people who come to our events to learn, network and create value through the events themselves”. Rudolph Santarromana shared the same opinion, “All of the speakers were very approachable”, he said, “and I think that the crowd posed some really good questions for each of the companies to consider. In this way, I saw the event as a great way to share knowledge, experience and ideas. I'm really glad I was able to join this discussion!”

Because three makes it perfect, the E2I Talks will comeback to Lisbon already in June for a third edition. Stay tuned for more information! Follow the E2I Talks page to be sure not to miss out on any future events!

 

By Rafael Bartolomeu Martins

The CommUnity Post

 


CommUnity Post Review Team: Jacopo Sala, Agata Mucha, and Irena Dukovska

Two CommUnity representatives from the Master Programme ‘Energy for Smart Cities’ (MSc Energy for Smart Cities) in Stockholm have joined forces to present a different event about one of the less studied alternatives for clean energy: nuclear fusion. The aim of this event was not of propaganda nor of indoctrination, curiosity and in-depth study is what Giulia Gamberi (Europe) and Srikant Anantapatnaikuni (India) wanted to promote with this seminar, sharing the knowledge with other colleagues to gain a better overview of the available technologies to achieve green energy. To do this, two field-expert researchers were asked to share their professional view both in a theoretical and a practical way: Jan Scheffel, a Plasma Physicist and Fusion Researcher, and Per Brunsell, head of the Department of Fusion Plasma Physics at KTH.

 

The event started with a presentation by Professor Scheffel about Fusion Energy, giving an introduction on the importance of fusion energy for the European energy mix. The question he asked is ‘why do we need fusion?’ and while asking, he showed that renewable energy sources will not be enough alone to cover Europe’s needs in a long-term perspective. A more technical part followed, where Jan described the actual principles behind nuclear fusion, including an interesting focus on the problem of plasma confinement. The research in this field, he explained, started in the early 1950’s with the soviet first Tokamak (toroidal chamber with magnetic coil) and has now brought to ITER: the world’s largest fusion experiment. It is the first reactor to produce more energy than it consumes, and it is proof that fusion is feasible. Next to this ambitious project, smaller alternative experiments are already in place and some were shown in the presentation: laser fusion, magnetized target fusion and mirror fusion plasma are only few of the existing investigations. The seminar ended with the introduction to the fusion experiment facility EXTRAP T2R located at the Alfvén laboratory, just a few steps away from the seminar room, where the second part of the event would take place.

 

Participants were divided in two groups for the visit to the Alfvén Laboratory of KTH following a brief snack for the public to take a short break, discuss about the lecture, and compare different points of view on the subject.

 

The EXTRAP T2R is one of the smallest specialized fusion experiment in Europe and Professor Brunsell shares some details about its functioning and its purpose, before leaving participants with the freedom to explore the device. A fun addition is given by a small mechanism that creates visible plasma, a practical demonstration on what was introduced before. Meanwhile, participants freely asked Per Brunsell questions about the reactor and the presentation itself as he kindly remained in the lab to discuss with all who were interested.

 

The EXTRAP T2R Experiement (Photo courtesy of KTH)


The whole event was meticulously organized and well suited for anyone interested, not only engineers, since the construction of the event would have caught the attention of people with diverse backgrounds. If you are curious to know more about what has been shown, you can download the full presentation from the page of the event on the CommUnity platform.

 

By Eugenio Luciano

In Collaboration with The CommUnity Post

Alessandro Caviasca is CEO and co-founder of SIARQ in Barcelona, Spain. He studied civil engineering in a prestigious Italian University, Universitá degli Studi di Padova (where Galileo taught) and at the University of Architecture of Barcelona (ETSAB). He believes in a new generation of solar products and solar architecture that is self-sufficient, in harmony with nature and connected to the world. The CommUnity Post managed to talk with him about his company, collaborating with InnoEnergy, and his advice for aspiring entrepreneurs.

 

“I define myself as an innovator-entrepreneur at the crossroads between architecture and engineering. Since the beginning of my professional life, my passion and motivation have been in renewable energies, and most of all, solar energy.”

- Alessandro Caviasca

 

Can you tell us a little bit about your company?

I co-founded SIARQ in 2003. SIARQ was working in sustainable architecture at a time when very few architects were. I aimed to start innovating in solar lighting products and I started designing a new generation of urban furniture with solar energy integrated. At the time, white LEDs applied to lighting was not yet at the industrial level and solar was still at the very beginning of its evolution. Today SIARQ has a range of innovative products for Smart Cities powered with LED, solar and connected with the Internet of Things. We have pioneered the integration of solar energy in public spaces and in architecture and I think that we have gained a good reputation with our range of products. SIARQ is also participating in many European R&D projects within the framework of the EC H2020 funded projects, in consortia with many tech centres, companies and universities around Europe.

I always used to say that SIARQ is a very little company with a big ecosystem of partners!

In which exciting projects have you worked on or are you currently working on?

The most exciting and probably the hardest project is continually making SIARQ a company that creates value,  and a real change and positive impact on our society through the use of solar energy. The last product we have finalised after four years of R&D is FASCOM, more commonly referred to as the ‘Solar Hub’: a product at the crossroads between solar microgeneration, communication and lighting.

How did you become associated with InnoEnergy?

I was introduced to InnoEnergy thanks to TECNALIA, a Spanish-Basque country technological centre. We started working with them and two other companies and together we built up an innovation project for the last step of development of the Solar Hub, which is now our premier product.

How have you benefited from this partnership with InnoEnergy?

We have benefited in many ways through our partnership with InnoEnergy. We received funding for our R&D, we gained notoriety through its commercial platform - The Business Booster - we became part of their ecosystem of companies and tech centres giving us more resources, we met their community around the world and, finally, we had the opportunity to work with very smart and prepared Master’s students in the programme: Enrico Furnari, Charles de Brosses and Rudolph Santarromana. SIARQ continues to innovate and the partnership with InnoEnergy and the chance to collaborate with these Master’s students have provided positive impacts to SIARQ’s work.

And I cannot forget the positive interactions with people that make InnoEnergy the impressive organisation that it is.

What advice would you give to aspiring entrepreneurs or those looking to get into your industry?

I learnt that Bill Gates decided to create a billionaire funding initiative for solar energy called the “Breakthrough Energy Coalition.” The mission is to foster disruptive innovations in the field of solar energy. Mr. Gates said that solar energy is still at the beginning of its evolution and it is now time to foster it, like venture capitalists did with the internet 25 years ago.

I was incredibly surprised because 20 years ago, when I started to work in this field, I felt I was then at the beginning of the solar energy evolution… but I was wrong. According to the words of Bill Gates it means that I am now probably still at the halfway point of my journey!!!

So, aspiring entrepreneurs, be mindful of what you decide to do. Make sure you have passion for what you choose, because you will probably be choosing the direction for your life! And I suggest going for solar energy, it is indeed the future!

 

By Rudolph Santarromana

The CommUnity Post

 

This article was originally featured on the first edition of the CommUnity Post Magazine. Banner image courtesy of SIARQ Solar Hub.


CommUnity Post Review Team: Jacopo Sala, Rafael Martins, and Hanna Schlegel