Towards a Fair Energy Transition

Utrecht University and Eindhoven University of Technology join forces

Energy transition

There is wide consensus among scientists and policy makers that an energy transition is urgent and essential in order to keep global warming within acceptable limits. This has been formalized in various international treaties and agreements, such as the Paris Agreement. Utrecht University and Eindhoven University of Technology are now joining forces by establishing a joint Fair Energy Transition Center. The Center aims at a comprehensive understanding of what a fair energy transition amounts to in an international context.

The energy transition will have enormous impact on all dimensions of human life. It will have an impact on the global and local economies, on urban planning, on natural environments, on international relationships, on individual and collective life styles, and on habits regarding housing, heating, cooking and traveling, to mention only some. “There is much at stake. How we manage the energy transition may well determine whether different regions of the world will live peacefully together or compete (violently) for scarce natural resources, including water and land” states project leader Prof. Marcus Düwell.

integrative assessment

The complex interrelationships between all the elements mentioned above raise the question how to assess energy transition policies in terms of their environmental, economic, social, moral and political implications. This does require technology assessment in form of an integrative assessment, since it is well-known that social, economic and political dimensions are decisive for the success of energy transitions.  Moreover, the transition needs to be fair on a global scale, between generations, and between different social groups and regions. If it is not fair, it will not be acceptable for and accepted by many of the stakeholders who need to carry out the energy transition. Considerations of fairness should be integral part of future developments of energy technologies.

Future Energy Resources

strong groups in energy research

Jointly the Universities of Utrecht and Eindhoven are particularly well equipped to contribute to such an integrative assessment. Both universities have strong groups in energy research. Both universities have excellent groups in sociology, psychology, history, philosophy, economy, and innovation studies, with internationally leading scholars on sustainability research such as Detlef van Vuuren, Johan Schot, Denise de Ridder, Koen Frenken, Marko Hekkert, Marcus Düwell, Anthonie Meijers and Geert Verbong.

By combining existing expertise in the fields of energy modelling, transition studies, social interaction, international relations, behaviour change, governance, normative and energy ethics, and business modelling on a more structural basis, it will be possible to become an international top player in the field of integrative assessments of fair energy transitions.

Strategic Themes

The participating scholars are already well embedded in interdisciplinary infrastructures, such as the strategic themes ‘Institutions for Open Societies’ and ‘Pathways to Sustainability’ of UU, and the forthcoming cross-disciplinary research themes on ‘Renewable Energy’ and ‘Human-centered Systems and Environments’ of TU/e.

Tools, education and impact

The scientific aim of the envisioned Center is to develop the relevant methodological tools necessary for an integrative assessment of the various options for a fair energy transition. The aim in terms of education is to introduce interdisciplinary topics on a fair energy transition in BSc and MSc educational programs at Eindhoven and Utrecht. Regarding societal impact the Center will address the urgent request of policy makers for more integrative approaches assessing energy transitions operating in national and international context (UN, OECD, EU).

Strategic alliance

Since 2011, Utrecht University, University Medical Center Utrecht and TU Eindhoven have formed a strategic alliance. This strengthens the existing links in research, education and knowledge valorisation. The focus is on sustainable energy, medical imaging and regenerative medicine. The project is financed by the Alliance Fund.