Science and education require energy in the forms of electricity, warmth and coldness, now and in the future. The energy use of Utrecht University is high and causes by far the most CO2 exhaust produced by Utrecht University.
In the Strategic Plan 2020-2025, sustainable development takes centre stage. In it, the university focuses on specific Sustainable Development Goals, specifically those related to circularity, biodiversity and climate neutrality. Utrecht University wants to contribute maximally to solving the climate problem. It strives for a future-proof energy provision that will be CO2 neutral in 2030. The strategic and functional frameworks for this are described in the Real Estate Strategy 2021. This is how Utrecht University works towards a climate-neutral operational management, a green campus where science and education are front and centre.
Energy strategy: Trias Energetica
In order to be CO2 neutral in 2030, Utrecht University bets big on energy conservation by making the buildings more sustainable and (preferably) generate sustainable energy ourselves. Besides that, Utrecht University uses fossil fuels optimally for as long as this is needed. This chosen integral energy strategy is a direct result of the Trias Energetica:
- conserving energy
- transition towards sustainable energy
- optimal use of fossil fuels
Collaboration in Utrecht Science Park
Utrecht Science Park has been designated by the Dutch national government as a gasless neighborhood for 2040, in consultation with the municipality of Utrecht. Within this framework, Utrecht University collaborates with the municipality of Utrecht and its USP partners (including the UMC Utrecht, HU University of Applied Sciences Utrecht and student housing organisation SSH) for various research projects. For instance, the university investigates collective thermal storage and investigates together with the UMC how to handle the expected increasing demand for electricity connections that is expected to already be insufficient in the short run.
Making space for the generating of sustainable energy
Utrecht University co-authored the environmental vision for the Utrecht Science Park of the Utrecht municipality. This vision states that - in order to fulfil its climate ambitions - the Utrecht Science Park will seek space for the generation of sustainable energy. In concrete terms, this involves the possibility of realising (one or two) wind farms and solar fields. Utrecht City Council adopted the Environmental Vision for the Utrecht Science Park in September 2022.
The route is not set
The first steps have been made, but the route towards a future-proof and sustainable energy provision is not set. Among other things, Utrecht University is dealing with the impact of changing (stricter) laws and regulations. The expectation is that this will have much influence on the requirements that will be set for buildings and local sustainable energy sources. On top of that, where currently natural gas, thermal storage and electricity guarantee the energy provision, this is expected to be done by more techniques in combination with buffering and storage in the future.