Eleven building blocks for the transition to sustainable energy

Next months, these posts focus on the challenges of Earthlings of to bring humane cities closer. These posts represent the main findings of my e-book Humane cities. Always humane. Smart if helpful, updates and supplements included. The English version of this book can be downloaded for free here and the Dutch version here

After having finished five posts on controversial aspects of the energy transition (‘The stepdaughters of climate science’, in Dutch), I summarized my favorite solutions. in eleven short statements

1. I will feel most comfortable in a world deploying energy provided by sun and wind to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. This implies a huge transition, which, also brings significant benefits for an emerging sustainable economy.

2. Instead of opting for an expensive third-generation nuclear power plants, we better invest in the development of fourth generation nuclear energy plants, such as Thorium, or molten salt reactors. Their waste is limited, and they are inherently safe. These reactors could potentially replace outdated wind turbines and solar panels from 2040.

3. We must also continue using less energy, without undue expectations. After all, clean energy can potentially be abundantly available in the long term, although this is particularly relevant for developing countries.

4. In addition to the use of solar and wind energy, I am opting for hydrogen. It will be used for heavy industry, to level discrepancies in the supply and demand of energy and as an additional provision for heating buildings and houses. The presence of high-quality gas networks, as in the Netherlands, is easing this choice. In addition, we use residual heat, biomass of reliable origin and we exploit geothermal energy where its long-term availability is assured.

5. By no means we are producing all necessary hydrogen gas ourselves. The expectation is realistic that after 2030 it will be produced in deserts and transported from there at a competitive price.

6. The North Sea and the IJsselmeer will become the most important places for the extraction of wind energy. Besides, solar panels are installed on roofs wherever possible. We care for our landscape and therefore critically consider places where ground-based solar panels can be installed and where wind turbines are not disturbing. Part of the wind energy is converted into hydrogen on site.

7. It could easily last until 2040 before the import and production of hydrogen meets our needs. Therefore, we must continue to use (imported) gas for quite some time.  To prevent greenhouse gas emission, significant capacity to capture and store CO2 must be in place, at least temporarely.

8. Given the availability of temporary underground storage of CO2, premature shutting down our super-efficient gas and coal-fired power stations it is unnecessary capital destruction. They can remain in operation until the facilities for solar and wind energy generation are at the desired level and sufficient hydrogen gas is available.

9. Energy co-operations facilitate the local use of locally produced energy, thus enabling lower prices, and limiting the expansion of the electricity grid. To this end, private and neighborhood storage of electricity is provided.

10. Reliably collected biomass is deployed as raw material for the biochemical industry in the first place and can further be used for additional fueling of coal and gas-powered stations (with CO2 capture) and as local energy source for medium temperature district heating networks.

11. Finally, we must take enough time to choose the best way to heat buildings and houses at neighborhood level. Getting off gas prematurely can induce wrong choices in the longer term. A gradual phasing out of gas heating and cooking will enable us to wait longer for the moment when hydrogen (gas) is available to replace the natural gas in neighborhoods where it is the best solution.


This article has been published before at the Amsterdam Smart City website