The transition to a sustainable and energy-neutral society begins in the city. The research group develops and shares expertise in this area. It focuses on the central themes of demand reduction, generation of renewable energy and efficient use of ‘legacy’ (fossil) fuels.
The New Energy in the City research group contributes to the development of new expertise in the field of energy efficiency and energy transition in the built environment and shares this expertise with companies and regional authorities. The group’s activities include social, technical and process innovation. Sustainability is one of the focal points of HU University of Applied Sciences Utrecht’s research activities. As of May 2014, HU University of Applied Sciences Utrecht launched the Centre of Expertise (CoE) Smart Sustainable Cities, along with businesses and other knowledge institutions. With its innovative research and teaching, the CoE works on products, services and solutions that bring us closer to the realization of smart, healthy, sustainable cities. The New Energy in the City research group is the primary research group that supports the CoE, with Ivo Opstelten in the position of director of applied research.
The research group’s mandate is to conduct research that can provide tools for all parties involved to enable the transition to a sustainable built environment. These parties include construction and engineering companies, as well as housing corporations, governments and energy companies. Three aspects are key in the transition to sustainability throughout the energy chain:
- demand reduction
- generation of renewable energy
- efficient use of ‘legacy’ (fossil) fuels
This enables the research group, together with companies and local governments, to contribute to achieving climate-neutrality in the Utrecht region. It builds on the collaborative efforts with the business community that are already in place.
Professor Ivo Opstelten points out that ‘the research group will be characterized by a connection between technology, the environment, and people. The demands of rapid developments in the field of energy transition are not restricted to an improved understanding of the interactions between various technical systems. Accordingly, the research group will also be exploring ways of integrating these systems in buildings and areas. This endeavour will, of course, be fully in compliance with the wishes and behaviour of the end users and will be attuned to the attendant societal processes of innovation.”
Three lines of research
The research group will focus on three lines of research that coincide with the three requirements for transition: people must want it, be capable of it and implement it. In other words, the research is about motivation and behaviour, constructability and scalability.
While the direct beneficiaries of this research will be those working in professional practice, the results will also be used for educational purposes. Degree programmes in the domains of engineering and the built environment will use the results of this research, and will incorporate them into their educational activities. Other faculties will also benefit from the research group’s results. This will ultimately enable HU to produce skilled professionals experienced in the practical application of renewable energy practices in the urban environment.
Employment in the sustainability sector is expected to continue to show strong growth nationwide in the years to come. Many jobs will be created, especially in the fields of energy savings and decentralized renewable energy systems. As a market, decentralized renewable energy generation is also attractive for SMEs – in contrast to centralized sustainable energy generation, where the role of SMEs is much less significant. The research group trains the professionals of the future to be experts in all these aspects.