The university needs energy to carry out education and research. The generation of this energy causes  CO2 emissions.

Utrecht University’s energy strategy is based on the principles of the Trias Energetica (see figure): (1) limit energy demand (2) use renewable energy and (3) use fossil fuels as efficiently and cleanly as possible. By implementing this strategy, the university reduces their  CO2 emissions in the pursuit of a carbon-neutral organisation in 2030 (Strategic Plan 2016-2020).


The university calculates the annual energy consumption on the basis of the electricity, gas and heat meters in all buildings and determines the share of renewable energy.

KPIs for measuring the sustainability of energy (use).

The energy consumption is strongly influenced by the outside temperature. As in previous years 2017 and 2018, 2019 was a year with a relatively mild winter*.

4.1 Energy saving - use

The first principle of the Trias Energetica is energy saving. Utrecht University uses energy in the form of gas, electricity, heat and thermal energy storage.

In total, Utrecht University used 6.9% less energy in 2019 than in base year 2017, namely 472,939 gigajoules (GJ**). This is comparable to the use of some 8,250 Dutch households6. Compared to 2018, the saving was even 8.3%.

In recent years, the university has taken action to reduce energy consumption. With measures relating to insulation, ventilation, management and ICT. A good example is the approach to the Cambridgelaan car park (see also Activities 2019). Ultimately, these efforts will become visible on the energy meters of the buildings. In 2019, there was also a mild winter, as a result of which less gas was needed for heating.

4.2 Renewable energy

The second principle of the Trias Energetica is renewable energy. The goal of Utrecht University is to generate as much energy as possible locally and renewably. With the Renewable Energy indicator, we measure what % of the total energy use is generated locally and renewably.

Currently, the university generates 3.35% of its total energy consumption with solar panels and heat and cold (CHP) installations. This is about the same as in 2018. In 2019, new plans were made for the deployment of more solar panels in the short term. Various new photovoltaic (PV) installations are expected to be realised in 2020, as well as a new thermal energy storage installation.

4.2.1 Thermal Energy Storage

As in 2018, energy from heat and cold storage accounts for more than 2.5% of total energy consumption. The current thermal energy installation is still not working optimally (the potential is 6% of the total current energy consumption). It is a complex system that is continuously improved by a team of managers and maintenance engineers.

4.2.2 Renewable energy plus purchase/compensation

As an alternative to local renewable energy, Utrecht University buys wind energy and Vertogas (green gas). Including this purchase, 25.01% of the total energy consumption is renewably generated. This is almost 5% less than in 2018. The reason for this is that in 2019 the university itself generated more heat (and therefore less electricity) in the combined heat and power plant on the campus. In 2019 the university will purchase 2 million m3 of green gas, which will be 8 million m3 in 2020.

    Zonnepanelen en windmolens

    4.2.3 Solar energy

    In 2018 Utrecht University had a total of 4,832 solar panels with a total capacity of 1,308 kilowatt peak. No solar panels were installed in 2019. Solar panels accounted for more than 2% of electricity consumption and 0.8% of total energy consumption in 2019.

    In the coming years, the university will expand this capacity considerably: the estimated potential is approximately 35% of the total current electricity consumption. Fitting solar panels to remaining suitable free roof space will be completed in 2020 and 2021. Other roofs will be filled in later years in combination with renovation. Solar panels will be installed above parking spaces and in 2020 the university will investigate the possibilities for field set-ups in the meadows around USP.

    4.3 Efficient use of fossil fuels

    The third step of the Trias Energetica involves the efficient use of fossil resources. Utrecht University’s Combined Heat and Power Plant (CHP) uses natural gas to generate both heat and electricity. This gives higher efficiency than conventional separate production of heat and electricity and is therefore the most responsible way of energy conversion. In addition, legislation and regulations oblige the university to use this form of generation. In 2019, the efficiency of the CHP was 84%. By way of comparison: the average fossil fuel efficiency of electricity generation in the Netherlands was 56.4%****.

    Activities 2019

    • Sensors, a dimming function and LED lighting have been installed in the car park on the Cambridgelaan: since December 2019 electricity consumption has been reduced by 15,000kWh down a level of 20,000 kWh. That equates to the electricity consumption of 70 Dutch households and is about 720 Gigajoule per year.
    • In various buildings, the engineers of the Maintenance and Management Department have installed economical LED lighting, for example in the Educatorium, Janskerkhof 15 and the David de Wied building.

    Outlook 2020

    • In the University Library in Utrecht Science Park, replacement of fans and optimisation of air control will save around 200,000 kWh per year. In addition, improvement of the heating installation will result in an additional saving of 2,000 GJ per year.
    • In the historic University Library on the Drift, half of the single glazing is replaced by high quality insulating glass.
    • In 2020, the university will utilise a new heat and cold storage facility for the central area of the Utrecht Science Park, to which the David de Wied building will first be connected.
    • In 2020, the university will quantify all maintenance measures yielding sustainability gains, making it even clearer how much each intervention will save.
    • At the USP, remaining suitable roofs on the Tolakker and the Jeanet Donkervoet building will be fitted with solar panels. The parking spaces Jenalaan and Sorbonnelaan will be given a first pilot with 12 and 10 respective solar carports (covered parking spaces).
    • In the city centre, the flat roofs of the university library and the university museum will be fitted with solar panels.

    *     Graaddagen de Bilt: 2017) 2685,17, 2018) 2675,54 en 2019) 2648,36.

    **    By converting all components to gigajoule primary energy consumption, one comparable number is created. This also includes losses that occur during local generation.
    ***   Source: Milieucentraal, average Dutch household consumes 1,340m3 gas and 2,830kWh electricity, which equals (47.1 + 10.2 = 57.3 gigajoules).