New professor in Zwolle warming up for energy transition

16 September 2020

Who would want to have it on their conscience that 420 million people more will be hit by extreme heat waves and that rising sea levels will lead to critical situations in vulnerable environments, like small islands or low-lying coasts? "Not you and not me', the new energy transition professor Jeike Wallinga argues. On Wednesday 16 September she delivered her professorial lecture at Windesheim University of Applied Sciences.

And if we do not want this to happen, according to the new professor, there is only one possible conclusion. The energy transition is no longer in the distant future. It must happen at full speed from now until 2035: in other words, over the next 15 years! That is why Windesheim has set up the Energy Transition Professorship. This professorship focuses on ways of saving energy as well as speeding up the transition to sustainable energy. This is done through research that focuses on transitions in the built environment and the (re)design of energy systems and energy chains. Joining forces with the professional field, education and society. Because time is of the essence and we need to step up our pace.
 
Professorship at 1.5°C
And the professorship sets the bar high for the energy transition, with a focus on substantial changes that help to limit global warming to no more than 1.5°C. "And a better environment starts with you (and people/things around you)," says the lecturer: "With Windesheim's engineering students, regional companies, Windesheim's own CO2 footprint and the local government. An important objective of the professorship is therefore to fully involve higher professional education students in the energy transition, so that they can later implement the energy transition in practice. Wallinga calls this new generation of engineers both capable and aware of the energy transition: one of the important prerequisites for a successful energy transition.

Warming up together
Nevertheless, the professor feels it would be unwise to wait until this group has completed its education. "Everyone - whether you have just left school or have been working for years - owes it to young people to work day in day out on a future for the next generation. I consider it the university's duty to provide not only students, but also the regional business community with tools for the energy transition. After all, this is a matter that concerns us all." It is not without reason that the professorship also has a solid foundation in practice, because it is largely financed by the professional field: fifty-fifty by Enexis Netbeheer and BDR Thermea (Aandelen Remeha foundation).

The boundaries of energy transition 
Ultimately, the professorship must develop and promote energy technology that makes a sustainable contribution to the energy transition in our built environment. That means looking at solutions that make sense in the long term and at steps to take now that will not be regretted. It is important that technical disciplines, such as engineering, mechanical engineering, electrical engineering and ICT, work closely together. But the professor wants more. Wallinga also wants to create real awareness. "We have to stop thinking that somewhere down the line, technology will solve the energy problem for all of us. This is also a task for the individual citizen".

No ‘cure all’-method
"For only when energy transition goes hand in hand with the conscious question of what we eat, how we live and how we move around will the blanket of greenhouse gases stop growing thicker. So energy transition is not a 'cure all' method. Unfortunately, therefore, the comparison with that other current crisis does not hold water: corona stops as soon as a vaccine becomes available and the virus stops being spread. With the climate crisis, however, things are not so simple, because that also requires a change in consumer behaviour. Though I must admit it was a relief, that cloud of clean air that hung over the world. And that is where we need to go in terms of climate change, but without corona'.

About the professor
Jeike Wallinga studied physics at Utrecht University, with a specialization in energy physics. In 1998 she obtained her PhD on research into thin-film solar cells. After holding positions at various organizations including Alliander and Turquoise Energy Management, she started working at Saxion's Professorship of Sustainable Energy Supply, first as principal researcher and then as associate professor. With her lecture Practical warming-up: the energy transition in perspective, she officially takes up her position as professor at Windesheim.