12 October 2020
DSM and Lightyear aim to design solar roofs for all types of electric vehicles
Column Auke Hoekstra, program director NEON, Eindhoven University of Technology
We are currently faced with a global energy transition. I see it as the biggest adventure in the history of mankind, reducing the landing on the moon to a minor event. The challenge is huge: generating sustainable energy for ten billion people without impacting nature. But I think – no, I know – that it is absolutely feasible. However, we do have to adopt an ambitious stance to achieve this and I think that the Brainport region has an important role to play. I was so impressed by everything the region had to offer that I moved here myself and built my own positive energy house.
I am not saying that it’s a fait accompli. Global warming is only progressing and I find it inacceptable that we allow animals to become extinct at a speed that has only be seen five times before in the history of the earth. A lot is still unknown, also with respect to the transition we are facing. That is why I founded NEON: an initiative that is giving 35 fresh young academic researchers – together with 20 professors and 20 companies – 4 years to find out how to go about this adventure. They are largely connected to the Eindhoven University of Technology, which is situated here in the Brainport region, but we also closely cooperate with 7 knowledge institutes in other parts of the Netherlands and 5 international knowledge institutes. NEON is basically a simpler version of the Netherlands: we cluster everyone’s knowledge to develop complex future scenarios and then select the best scenario. I am currently looking into the possibility to, jointly with NEON, use various districts in the region, like the Brainport Smart District and KnoopXL, as an example for the Netherlands and the rest of the world.
Solar and wind energy are quickly becoming cheaper than fossil energy. It therefore makes sense to stop using gas. (However, especially in older neighborhoods with badly insulated houses equipped with old-fashioned central heating, it won’t be so easy to go all-electric. That is why we at NEON are looking into various hybrid scenarios.) But what do we do at times when the sun isn’t shining or the wind isn’t blowing? One quickly thinks of batteries and that is why battery technology has been developing rapidly worldwide. In the Brainport region, we don’t have a battery plant, but we do have an ecosystem of companies that can help the world to optimally use batteries.
In short, the Brainport region can play an important part in the biggest adventure men has ever experienced. Isn’t that great!
Eindhoven University of Technology – Program director NEON