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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

ENERGY STORAGE IS HOT! Owing to the intermittent nature of renewable sources, energy storage is gaining huge momentum across the globe with rapidly expanding companies, commercialisation of technologies, plummeting costs and increasing customer adoption to new technologies. These highlighting factors indicate the growing impact of the energy transition to decentralised distributed energy production, thereby attaining higher flexibility in balancing the variable demand and supply needs. With the 2020 legislations of climate and energy package, and constant innovation, energy storage is set to continue the surge of development in the global market. Based on these climate urgencies, EURELECTRIC organised a high-level conference in Brussels on the topic “The Value of Storage for the Clean Energy Transition” to explore the opportunities and challenges associated with maximising the potential of energy storage, both for the power and industry sector. The Benelux CommUnity Master’s students participated in the conference to gain extensive knowledge on the current trends and developments in terms of energy storage across Europe in particular, and the world in general. This article presents a brief summary of the event, the outcomes, and the lessons taken away from attending.

 

Keynote Addresses

EURELECTRIC is the voice of the electricity industry in Europe, who represents the power sector in over 30 European countries, speaking for more than 3,500 companies in power generation, distribution, and supply. The conference participants included high level professionals, including, Kristian Ruby (Secretary General of EURELECTRIC), Tudor Constantinescu (Principal Advisor to the Director General DG Energy European Commission), Julio Castro (Executive Vice President Regulation IBERDROLA) and Henrik Stiesdal (Former CTO Siemens Wind Power). The conference started with the welcome address of Kristian Ruby, who highlighted the importance of storage and considered it to be an integral part of future energy. He said, “storage is much more than batteries, there are other options of storage (hydro, thermal storage, hydrogen gas), that we should consider”. The keynote address on “Energy Storage in the EU Energy Policy” by Tudor Constantinescu inspired the attendees. He said that energy storage was neglected for a while but the trend is changing due to the introduction of more storage and renewables. He highlighted the importance of the 2030 EU target and stressed that ‘final cost of primary consumption’ is a major challenge. He added that the transport sector is the most difficult sector to accomplish carbon neutrality, therefore, a critical question is how to develop synergies and facilitate these links. One of the solutions could be Power to Gas (P2G). However, to attain decarbonisation, new market designs are required that offer fair deals to customers and promote an increase in regional cooperation. He defined storage as “deferring electricity from point of generation to point of use”. He stressed a need to incorporate Smart Energy Systems to achieve more flexibility and adaptability.

The Conference Sessions

The conference consisted of three sessions. Session I was about “the Potential of Storage for the Power, Transport and Battery Industries”. Panelists discussed the potential game-changing role energy storage can play for Europe’s energy transition. The trends presented included:

  • a significant reduction in renewable energy costs from 100 cents/kWh to less than 2 cents/kWh;
  • a 10-fold increase in terms of investment in energy storage from now until 2030 (potential of entrepreneurship);
  • battery pack costs will fall another 70 percent by 2030;
  • and more than half cars sold in 2040 will be electric.

 

Session II was related to the “Technology Battles – Providing Full-Scale Solutions for Europe”. Three company representatives from Wärtsilä Energy Solutions, Hydrogenics and Andritz Hydro GmbH respectively, presented their latest state of the art storage technology solutions. Panelists debated and battled it out to convince the audience that they have what it takes to provide solutions to the energy transition system challenges.

 

Session III was related to “Storage- the Regulatory Wish List”. Panelists discussed the key policy enablers at the European and national level. During the “Technology Battles”, key recommendations were collected and then discussed in session III. These included the level of playing field for storage solutions, right market design, non-discriminatory grid fees, promoting sector coupling and conducive R&D framework.

 

EURELECTRIC Conference: Benelux Community with the Secretary General of EURELECTRIC

 

Major Takeaways

The major takeaways from the conference were that technology is advancing faster than policies and the market is growing faster than expected. Large sectors such as the refining, fertilizer and steel industries are difficult to decarbonise; however, for large-scale energy storage, costs are lower. Despite the fact that energy storage can be a costly option, regulations have to keep up with the pace of technology advancements. There is an expectation that costs will reduce quickly, and the tipping point will be achieved in the middle of the next decade. All in all, it was an amazing learning experience to attend this conference.

 

By Muhammad Awais

In Collaboration with The CommUnity Post

 


CommUnity Post Review Team: David Duque Lozano, Rachit Kansal, Brendan Abadie

The previous articles (Goal and Strategy) intended to shed some light on the climate change challenge and guidelines for directing mitigation efforts. This article lands on the personal level - how can one individual contribute to solutions of such a global problem in a meaningful way? It depends on individual expertise and character as well as the opportunities available. As a result, everyone may reach different conclusions. Instead of trying to answer what could be the best role for somebody else, I would simply like to share how I see myself contributing to mitigation of climate risks based on my abilities, limitations, and beliefs.

Wide vs. Deep

There are a number of disciplines, at least the technical ones, that seem to require more and more specialisation. That is my experience having studied and worked in several of them. I did my Bachelor’s in physics, an internship in a chemical company, and then worked as a software developer. Now I am doing a Master’s in energy engineering and spent the last summer doing another internship in energy system analysis. In the world of engineering/developing, there are simply too many details to do a good job without having a specialisation. In scientific research this is even more true - specialisation is almost a necessity.

 

However, I am not really good at any technical-scientific specialisations. I can do a pretty good job, but for that I need to spend considerably more time than most people around me. Since I have a focus on solutions I find it much more interesting to get a “panoramic” overview of the real-world problem and study the holistic solution rather than only study a single aspect in depth. If I had to choose a focus, at the very least I would like to know that the technology to which I am going to dedicate a significant part of my life has a high potential and a high likelihood of making an important impact. In this sense, I prefer to have a broad understanding of many related disciplines, as opposed to a deep knowledge and expertise in only one discipline.

 

Main Paths of Contribution

I believe that interdisciplinary and holistic problem-solving skills could contribute to the mitigation of climate change risks. My ambition is to work on identifying the optimal pathways for the transition to a sustainable energy future on the national level, identifying and addressing critical bottlenecks for these pathways. As of right know I see myself moving in one of these three paths:

 

Energy system modelling

Large energy infrastructure projects like power plants can cost billions of euros and be in operation for 50 years or more. Policies can have an even larger impact. Though the future cannot be predicted, valuable insights can be obtained using energy system models. These models take into account environmental, technical, economic, social, political and other aspects of the energy sector on the national and international level.

 

From what I know so far, such work is mostly performed in scientific-governmental institutions and large corporations. However, private businesses keep these models and their results for themselves as corporate secrets. Also, the private sector is likely to be more interested in focusing on its bottom line than in addressing social and environmental externalities. Therefore, the most interesting places for me to work would be in scientific-governmental institutions like Joint Research Center (The European Commission's science and knowledge service) and International Institute for Applied System Analysis in Europe and New Energy and Industrial Technology Development Organization (NEDO) in Japan. Another interesting place would be the non-governmental organisation  Energy Innovation in the United States.

 

Use of these models, however, has its limitations. As I’ve experienced doing my summer internship in the division of Energy System Analysis at KTH university, developing and then analysing such models is a long process. This makes it not very suitable for smaller enterprises or individuals. My gut feeling is that simpler models could be used for such cases, but I am simply not aware of such a use.

 

Spread of knowledge

There is a lot of information out there about climate change, energy and other issues. However, a lot of it tends to be either scientific or oversimplified. I believe that by making the full picture of important questions easier to understand, it would improve discussion, influence behaviour, build support for needed policy changes and attract more bright people to careers which allow the contribution towards sustainability. I believe that even now, in a post-fact world*, people listen for a reason.

 

Personally, I like watching lectures, seminars, documentaries and other informative videos. Though I do not have an exact number I think I have watched over 700 lectures on energy and climate issues alone. I have entertained the thought for some time now to make informatively dense and easy-to-understand mini documentaries myself. This path would give a lot of freedom to explore questions, which I find important and interesting.

 

Working on bottleneck technologies

Even though my background is varied, it revolves around technical-scientific fields. This is an obvious path to continue. Working on technology and/or products, if successful, would have a direct impact, while insights obtained from models and information in documentaries are going to be used to make decisions by others. This path also appears to offer more possibilities to work in the private sector, where visible results can be achieved much faster.

 

Probably the strongest argument for the role of technology advancement in addressing climate change appears to be in the article The Moon and the Ghetto. It analyses the question of why medicine and engineering sciences advanced so much in the last two centuries while education practices are almost unchanged. The author proposes that different fields of knowledge due to their inherent characteristics (presence of strong scientific core, ability to test in controlled environment, reproduce results, have widely agreed characteristics of desired performance, etc.) develop at very different rates. On the climate issue, the article states that: “Without major breakthroughs in the technologies employed to produce and use energy, the costs of dealing effectively with the global-warming problem likely will prove to be so high that there will be a political stalemate”.

 

In any case, for me to fully dedicate my focus on a particular technology I have to know that it has a potential to remove important bottlenecks in the transition to a sustainable energy future.

 

Overthinking Simple Choices?

You may have other simpler reasons for working on climate change mitigation efforts apart from the desire to solve this important problem. You may be motivated by money that can be made during the energy transition. You may enjoy working with great people in this field. You may also think that working in the lab is a good way to avoid awkward and stressful social interactions. At the end of the day the reason why you do it does not matter; what matters is what you do.

 

Having said that, I do believe in the value of knowing what is important, since it helps:

  1. to find direction when you are lost;
  2. to find the strength when the going gets tough;
  3. to ease the pain when you fail;
  4. to get help among people around you;
  5. to achieve the goals you set for yourself.

It seems just wise to use all the help you can get - a lot of people depend on you.

 

By Justinas Jasiūnas

In Collaboration with The CommUnity Post


*Post-fact world – “world, in which virtually all authoritative information sources were called into question and challenged by contrary facts of dubious quality and provenance”.


 

CommUnity Post Review Team: Rachel Sadok, Rudolph Santarromana, and Tara Trafton

The iconic event of CommUnity Benelux “From Thesis to Startup” is back. On the 21st of November, the InnoEnergy CommUnity Eindhoven hosted the event to get the attendees learn about the  “InnoEnergy Highway” program, which can be a very useful tool to go “From thesis to startup”. Among the attendees were InnoEnergy and EIT Digital Master students, Alumni and InnoEnergy staff members.

 

The main objective of this event is to encourage young minds to enter the startup industry with their ideas originated from their theses. EIT InnoEnergy Highway program is a platform for entrepreneurs and startups to begin their journey into the commercial market.

 

Mr. Raymond Meeuwsen, Business Creation Manager of Benelux region, gave a brief introduction about the InnoEnergy Highway program and how it could be applied to our own startups. He shared some valuable advice on how to create a successful startup and the importance of a perfect team.  

 

We later engaged in a collaborating challenge from Heat-Power--a startup focused on an innovative way to design combined gas and steam cycles (which, together increases their efficiency)--presented by Tom Huizer. One of the noteworthy elements of the challenge was that it made us think in the way someone working with a startup does. We split up into teams and took a role based on our interests and skills, whether it was a leader, the communication manager or the financial manager. This process is imperative in selecting best people with the most suitable skills to form a winning team, and to realize how each role can contribute to a successful startup. This experience also helped us  explore how to make the best use of participation in the InnoEnergy Highway program.

 

Finally, we simulated a real life situation, presenting our plans to a client (investor) based on how the market would react to the technology, market competition, entry of new players and possible room for improvements.

 

At the end of the session, we played a game to challenge ourselves in an entertaining way to approach the problem. The game involved hitting the maximum points on a dart board with the goal of hitting the target market--a microcosm of what entrepreneurship is. A networking session with drinks to end the event on a positive note concluded a hard day’s work. I feel that such events help us  overcome the hurdles we may face during the startup creation process and give us an insight of the resources available in the market.

 

Teams working in the collaborative challenge (Photo: Muhammad Awais)

 

Thesis to Startup participants (Photo: Muhammad Awais)

 

 

 

By Kiran Raj

In Collaboration with The CommUnity Post

 


CommUnity Post Review Team: David Duque Lozano, Agata Mucha, Jacopo Sala

Corporate procurement of renewables involves companies acquiring some form of renewable electricity production, usually to offset their own consumption. Over the years, many of the world’s largest companies have pledged to offset some or all of their consumption with renewables. Prominent examples include Google, IKEA, Bank of America, Coca Cola and more that want to go 100% renewable.

 

Why does any of this matter though? Three reasons:

  1. The scale - The scale of this market is humongous. For example, just Google and Facebook together consumed more electricity in 2015 than Luxembourg. Thus, moving the needle in this space has considerable implications on carbon emissions.
  2. Consumer facing - Many of these companies are consumer-facing. Engaging the companies in procuring renewables and broadcasting their engagement helps to maintain and even accelerate the sustainability movement.
  3. Competitive pressure - Having large consumer-facing companies commit to renewable energy publicly creates pressure for other companies (and other industries) to follow suit, leading to a snowball effect.

 

But why would a company, specialized in an entirely different sector and aimed primarily at earning profits, be interested in this area? There are three main reasons, in order of decreasing importance:

 

  • Sustainability goals - most companies are driven by these. Many of the largest companies in the world do care about the impact they are creating and want to make a difference. Beyond that, having aggressive sustainability goals generates great PR for them and helps them in recruiting and retaining talent (particularly, millennials)
  • Mitigating risk - procuring renewables (a form of distributed generation) can help reduce risk. This can be to improve resilience on-site or reduce exposure to volatile electricity prices.
  • Cost savings/profit opportunity - this is the rationale corporates use least when acquiring renewables. Even though renewables are cost-competitive in many parts of the world, they are not a mechanism to make money for corporations in an electricity market they know little about.

 

So this is a whole lot of talk, right? What’s really been done about it? The figure below shows the corporate renewable deals completed in the US, as of September 2017.  As can be seen, the market has grown significantly in the past few years and now includes firms like Goldman Sachs, T-Mobile and Anheuser-Busch InBev - all representing a variety of sectors beyond the giant IT firms that were early movers in this space.

 

Source: Business Renewables Center, Rocky Mountain Institute

 

Thus far, we have had an introduction to the corporate renewable space, why it’s important and why it exists. We will now briefly look at how exactly corporates are engaging in this space.

 

Corporations procure renewables in two major ways:

  1. Onsite - This involves corporations procuring renewables and placing them on their facilities. These renewables are usually used to offset electricity consumption occurring in the same location
  2. Offsite - As the name suggests, this is a term covering any renewable energy generation not occurring in the same location as the corporate facility, that is being used to offset the corporation’s consumption.

 

 

Companies elect to do onsite renewable procurement for two reasons:

  1. Visibility - Renewables (most commonly, solar panels) at the company’s location create a powerful image of the company’s commitment being translated into action
  2. Focus on locality - Sometimes corporations want the manufacturing and installation of renewables done  locally, to benefit the community.

 

However, for almost all major corporations, onsite renewables cannot be used to offset their entire consumption just due to lack of space, and so their strategy must be supplemented by off site solutions.

 

While regulation around offsite solutions varies across countries, one of the more powerful instruments to enable offsite solutions in the US has been the Power Purchase Agreement. This can only take place in deregulated markets (i.e. markets where any entity can buy or sell power in wholesale and does not need to go through a utility) and involves a contract between two parties. In this case, one of the parties is a corporation and the other is a renewable energy developer (i.e. a company that develops a renewable energy project from conception to installation). Power purchase agreements are largely responsible for the explosive growth in corporate acquisition of renewables we saw in the previous figure.

 

This is a topic with much more depth than what is being presented here and it is a space to watch - there are a myriad of innovations occurring to satisfy corporates’ increasingly diverse needs for renewables!

 

If you’re interested in reading further on this topic, I’d suggest looking at reports from GreenBiz, WWF, WRI and Deloitte on this area. Also, please feel free to reach out to me at rachitkansal93@gmail.com for feedback, comments, questions and of course, appreciation!

 

 

By Rachit Kansal

In Collaboration with The CommUnity Post

 


CommUnity Post Review Team: Agata Mucha, Sergio Costa, David Duque Lozano

The CommUnity Post empowers CommUnity members to share ideas and highlight achievements. Our experiences, ideas and journeys can provide valuable lessons to one another, regardless of where we are.

 

We connect the geographic spread of CommUnity members by gathering diverse perspectives and insights from motivated writers. We provide a thorough and collaborative peer-review process to develop the highest-quality articles preserving the author’s voice. Our review process helps writers improve their skills, and we aim to broadcast the work of anyone who works with us. We provide writers with the opportunity to gain more visibility and writing attributes by choosing the best articles for our printed publication, increasing the value and achievement of their work. Thus, we support and encourage writers at any level to collaborate with the CommUnity Post.

 

With this in mind, we are always looking to collaborate with anyone interested. If you have an idea, or want to know more, contact the CommUnity Post through email at communitypost@cu.innoenergy.com or write us a message on the CommUnity platform to:

 

  • share your story, idea, or opinion, and improve your skills as a writer
  • facilitate our review process, and help improve CommUnity Members' work as a reviewer
  • provide quality images for our publication as a photographer
  • help create beautiful publications that will be seen by professionals and colleagues as a graphic designer
  • and join our team of enthusiastic members!

 

This is an opportunity to showcase CommUnity Members and elevate the status of the organisation by communicating and developing the highest quality content to externals who are interested or already working in fields related with renewable energy and sustainability.

 

Contact us and provide us with your background, current status (student, alumni, professional, executive, etc.), and a motivation for why you are interested in collaborating with the CommUnity Post. If you have a specific project you would like to implement, a specific idea for an article/article series you would like to contribute, or a specific role you would like to fulfill, also provide that information.

 

The CommUnity Post 

SUBMIT HERE

SAMPLE YEARBOOK GROUP PHOTO SUBMISSION HERE

SAMPLE SUBMISSION HERE

 


The 2nd edition of the InnoEnergy CommUnity Yearbook is well underway and this year we are making a public call for photos for the programme group photo pages! You can find a digital version of the 2017 Yearbook HereWe are looking for high-quality photos from each of the seven InnoEnergy Master’s programmes fulfilling the following characteristics:

 

  • At least 5-6 students in the photo (less is also acceptable)
  • Seminar and InnoEnergy-related event photos are best but will accept social photos as well
  • NO alcohol in the photos (as well as nothing inappropriate in the photos)
  • If possible, one photo of the entire programme/intake (e.g. all of SENSE 2016 intake)

 

More professional photos are desired (taken with a real camera and not smartphone) but all photos are welcome, and will go through a filtration stage to make sure the quality is high enough.

 

When uploading a photo, please clearly indicate the InnoEnergy Master’s programme(s) as well as intake (2016 or 2017) and a brief description of where the photo was taken/what it represents. Please also include the photographer of the photo if is other than the submitter. When submitting photos, please tag it with "yearbook" at the bottom of the submission page. For any questions please contact Rachel Sadok, Leon Haupt, Brendan Abadie, or Rudolph Santarromana

 

Thank you all for your collaboration and we look forward to delivering an awesome yearbook again this year!

 


The CommUnity Post wants to highlight the work of photographers in the CommUnity by giving you the chance to showcase your work in our next magazine! We know there are aspiring photographers out there, and we want to continue showcasing original work by CommUnity members in every magazine we produce, so this is your chance. Along with the photo contest, we are accepting submissions of all kinds to be considered for publication in the magazine. You have complete artistic freedom, and we accept and consider all submissions. The types of images we have been open to in the past include, but are not limited to:

 

  • Images of Nature
  • Images dealing with energy (of all types)
  • Images dealing with sustainable energy
  • Images with CommUnity Members, students, entrepreneurs, young professionals, etc.
  • Images at CommUnity events, or at related events
  • Original graphics that deal with any of the above topics
  • Other images and graphics that illustrated any related topics!

 

To submit an image or images for consideration, we ask that the image is original, or that you have permission from the owner of the image to share it with us. When submitting the image, we ask that you share a very short caption of the image that describes what the image shows, and why you chose to submit it (what is the story it tells?). See examples of submissions here, and click here to submit your own. Give the image a title if you wish, and be sure to name who the photographer of the image is.

 

Feel free to share multiple images with us for consideration (via google photos, google drive folder, or other image sharing software). For sharing folders, contact Rafael Martins, Brendan Abadie, Leon Haupt, or Rudolph Santarromana to provide further instructions on this, and of course, feel free to email communitypost@cu.innoenergy.com or write to the CommUnity Post via direct message on the platform.

 

Happy Photo-Taking!

 

 

 

(Banner Image: gapyear.com)