- The energy transition is in full swing, but we still have a lot of work to achieve the climate targets for 2030.
- Twente is the driving force behind the progress in the energy transition.
- Twente seems to be well on its way to becoming a hotspot for the energy transition with initiatives such as the H2-hub and The Green Box.
Solar panels, water pumps, wind turbines: the media talks about them every day. The Netherlands still has a lot of work to do to meet the climate targets for 2030 (reduce greenhouse gases by half, compared to 1999). The change requires significant investments from building owners and society. Investments from which Twente, as a manufacturing region, can benefit more than average.
Take hydrogen, for example, which more and more people see as the fuel of the future. This newcomer does not yet play a significant role in the Netherlands, but Enschede’s eastern neighbours have already gone a step further. The German government will build 400 hydrogen fuel stations along the motorways soon. Car manufacturers such as Volkswagen and Mercedes are expected to respond to this with new models.
There are only a handful of places in the Netherlands where you can fill up on hydrogen because no regular cars use this fuel. Various parties in Twente want to change this. Teams from the University of Twente and Saxion University of Applied Sciences have been working on energy-efficient hydrogen-powered cars for years, for example. The Greenteam, a multidisciplinary team of students, even won the prestigious Shell Eco Marathon in London in 2019.
Entrepreneur Kees Koolen from Hengelo has concrete plans for The Green Box, a campus with fifteen companies in the field of clean energy located on the former Eaton site. Twente seems to be well on its way to becoming an (inter)national hotspot for the energy transition with this and other initiatives such as the Green Energy Garden. Jos Keurentjes believes in the opportunities for energy region Twente. He has been leading the Centre for Energy Innovation at the University of Twente since 2019. A good foundation is already in place, according to Keurentjes. Over the past eighteen months, we have made a list of all researchers at the University of Twente working on energy-related topics. There turned out to be 600 to 800 of them throughout the entire organisation. Many of these scientists did not know what their colleagues were doing, and the outside world was definitely unaware. There is an enormous pool of knowledge, in other words, and Twente as a region could gain much more from this. The UT has the technology to make VDL’s electrolysers more efficient and cheaper, for example. We are now discussing this with them. This impact reaches beyond the region of Twente, too; we are now drawing national and international attention.”
Entrepreneur Gerard Schröder wants to create a hydrogen revolution from Almelo. He is the driving force behind Hydrogen Hub Twente, a joint venture involving dozens of parties. This hub should lead to a large energy centre at the former Sensata site in time. In the H2 hub, hydrogen is generated through electrolysis. Two large parties (Demcon in Enschede and VDL Energy Systems in Hengelo) recently announced their intention to collaborate and build similar electrolysers in Almelo. An electrolyser splits water into oxygen and hydrogen. Solar panels generate the electricity for this process. The collaboration represents a turnaround for VDL; they currently build mainly gas turbines and compressors. A prototype of the new system should be ready within two years. The capacity of such an electrolyser is equal to that of an average wind turbine in the Netherlands. The advantage of hydrogen is that it can be transported through the existing network of gas pipes. You do need a special tank and fuel cell in your vehicle. The expectation is that hydrogen can become cheaper than petrol if the production happens smartly and efficiently. Demcon and VDL’s advanced electrolysis systems are an example of this.
The centre wants to use the available knowledge about energy on various fronts. Training is essential because professionals are often traditionally trained and have limited knowledge of new developments such as installing heat pumps. That means there is still a lot of work to be done, according to Keurentjes. “Hundreds of thousands of people will be needed throughout the Netherlands in the coming years to make the energy transition possible. This means that Twente, a region with a relatively strong presence in the building and installation sectors, will need tens of thousands. All these people will need to be trained or retrained.
The centre wants to make the UT’s knowledge more visible and accessible to the outside world. It wants to be a place that connects scientists, companies and authorities. “Many good things happen at the university, but they do not always have enough impact”, according to Keurentjes. “We can increase this impact by connecting parties to each other. A great example is VDL Energy Systems; they are creating a ‘green energy garden’ in Almelo, a sort of playing ground for green energy. They do not have enough knowledge about ‘digital twin’, the virtual reproduction of reality. You need this to be better prepared for the expected production of solar or wind energy. We can help the province with the question of whether the existing grid can cope with an additional wind or solar park and how to deal with resistance from the community.
The Centre for Energy Innovation is focused on four mission-driven research programmes: energy-neutral data centres, digitisation, battery technology and negative emissions technology. This last line of research focuses on extracting CO2 from the atmosphere, released by human activities over the past century. Considerable research and investment funds from Microsoft, among others, are currently available for this.
Keurentjes: “We are now collaborating with a company from Enschede and looking at how we can apply several academic inventions from the UT elsewhere in the world. This is business that transcends borders. The research programme into energy-neutral data centres has already progressed so far that we were recently approached by Facebook in Silicon Valley. They are so impressed with the integrated approach in Twente that they would like to participate. That impacts regional parties because there are at least seventeen data centres in Overijssel alone.
Keurentjes is convinced that the East of the Netherlands can be a pioneer in the energy transition. He does believe that this requires better cooperation. “I see many parallel initiatives that lead to fragmentation. That is a shame. A ball pit of too many small projects is fatal. It will not give you the impact that you want to generate. It would be good to formulate future regional perspectives together. Where do we want to be in ten years, and what do we need to get there? Other provinces have taken the lead in drawing up an innovation and investment agenda that ultimately benefits the region’s entire economy. I do not see this happening enough yet in Overijssel. There is an Agenda of Twente, but it is mainly focused on the here and now. The province should establish a long-term vision for the energy transition in consultation with the business community and knowledge partners. We would love to help with this as the UT Centre for Energy Innovation.”
Date: 12 August 2021 |
Source of tekst: INN’twente |
Author: Marco Krijnsen