Energy transition? Energy revolution!

[Column]

TU Delft was born towards the end of the first industrial revolution. That was when people still moved around using horse and wagon, and when houses were lit with oil lamps and candles. By the time the first Ford Model T rolled off the assembly line, TU Delft was a venerable 66 years old! The second industrial revolution, which introduced electricity into our homes, was still a while away. Today, every household has more than one car on average, and we live surrounded by electricity-guzzling electronics. A power cut brings our normal life to an abrupt standstill. Admittedly, this doesn’t happen that often, but if our energy grid is not adapted soon, this might start happening more often. The fact is that if we start using sustainable sources of energy at a large scale, the stability of our current energy system will be endangered.

And that is just one of the enormous challenges the energy transition poses.

For that matter, it will not be the first time we make the transition to other sources of energy: coal, oil and gas were once very promising sources of energy too. We got a lot out of them, but they had undesirable side effects that we completely underestimated. And while this will not be the first time we transition to new sources of energy, the speed at which we need to make the transition is quite new. Past energy transitions were initiated by technological innovation and promoted by market demand once the technology, and therefore the source of energy, offered clear advantages in terms of cost and/or reliability.

In essence, these were energy evolutions; what we need now is a revolution.

Waiting for the market to do its thing is a luxury we do not have. If we want to limit climate change we must transition to CO2-neutral sources of energy at an unprecedented rate, remove CO2 from the atmosphere on enormous scale and find solutions that allow us to use less energy. In short, we need technological innovations to solve the problems we have created with our old technology. That is the irony of technological advancement in the energy sector. Please let us do things better this time around.

To achieve acceleration we must simultaneously work on technological breakthroughs, behavioural change and directive measures. There is no single technology or party that can solve the problem; we need a multidisciplinary approach to make a success of the energy transition. Our alumni play a crucial role in this: academia and the business community must join forces to bring about an acceleration together. We must bring about an energy revolution together.

I therefore invite you all to take part actively in the discussions, projects and events that will be organised during the 180 days of the anniversary. I will be there. Will I see you there?

Deborah Nas

Deborah Nas is an innovation expert and part-time Professor of Strategic Design for Technology-based Innovation in the Faculty of Industrial Design Engineering. She studied Industrial Design Engineering at TU Delft.
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