No future without Smart Grids

Geplaatst op: 15 mei 2014 door maartentaekels in Geen categorie

You can take a look at our “My statement”-paper by clicking on the following link.

My Statement

Hydrogen is useful, but not that great

Geplaatst op: 26 maart 2014 door claessensphilip in Geen categorie

Hydrogen, what is it worth as energy carrier?

To start with: it is an energy carrier, like electricity, and not an energy source, like fossil fuel. It still has to be produced somehow, and let that be the first negative point. Most of the hydrogen (90%+) is produced by steam reforming of natural gas: the emission of CO2 still remains, however no longer at the place of use (so hydrogen powered cars driving around in cities would no longer pollute the air locally).

What about electrolysis? The electricity for this process also has to be produced. In a paper, a table with well-to-wheel efficiencies (WTWe) can be found. When using natural gas as primary source, the WTWe of converting gas to electricity and then directly power a car (30%) is only slightly higher than converting gas to hydrogen and then power a car (23%). But when electricity is produced from renewables, the WTWe when using hydrogen as energy carrier is 23%, while directly charging a car battery and using the energy, leads to a WTWe of 63%! A nice graph can also be found here. Considering the possible energy scarcity in the future, using a 3 times less efficient method is ridicule.

A few other drawbacks: the storage is difficult. It needs high pressures and very low temperatures (if stored in the liquid phase). The available infrastructure for hydrogen is limited and hydrogen still has a rather high cost when looking at production, storage, use etc.

And the advantages?

Except from the decentralized production (no pollution in cities, it can be transported to places without an electricity grid), the main advantage is that is can be stored.

As also told by Jeremy Rifkin (blog last week), using hydrogen would make sense when it is used in combination with an unstable grid (powered by renewable energy). This way, electricity can be stored for a later moment when there is not enough electricity from renewable resources.

In my opinion, hydrogen should not be introduced in our cars. The today available electric cars have a driving range that is large enough for most of the daily trips. [Source] Hydrogen might be useful for – among others – trucks, ships, airplanes and especially for stabilizing the grid.

Other interesting websites/documents about this topic:

Join the change

Geplaatst op: 19 maart 2014 door claessensphilip in Geen categorie

Interview with Jeremy Rifkin by Schneider Electric (Dutch subtitles)

In the video, you can see an interview with Jeremy Rifkin, an economist, social theorist, writer … His last book is titled “The third industrial revolution” and in the book he discusses the post-carbon economy when new energy regimes are combined with new communication technologies. Rifkin advices the European Union and national governments around the world.

For starters, he says that, with the 1st and 2nd industrial revolutions, the economy changed as well. The 3rd industrial revolution has the internet as new communication technology and renewables as new energy regime.

The internet (unlike TV, radio, newspapers …) isn’t centralized, but distributed communication: everyone can share information with the whole world. Also the energy production is no longer solely produced on a few central places, but is becoming decentralized. Some houses are already producing electricity, but the decentralization has its limits here: there’s not much freedom in choosing whether to consume it, sell it or store it.

One way to store the energy is through conversion to hydrogen. I don’t hear from it very often, but research is done to make this economically feasible on large scale. Rifkin also said that by 2016, Daimler (mainly known from Mercedes) will sell cars running on hydrogen. It has a deal with other companies to build fuel stations with hydrogen across Germany. It would be nice if it works out, but it isn’t perfect – next blog more about it!

What I found very interesting, is that Rifkin said that companies like Schneider Electric will play a very important role for the transition. I believe that he means that these companies can already make a significant change to the system, even without the support from the government. I also read similar things in a magazine from Siemens.

The transition is taking place, one step at a time. Europe is supporting this transition. And however Belgium might not be so progressive, I believe we’ll get there; if not by government regulation, then by sheer economic reasoning. Let’s hope that the next government sees the opportunities.

I want to be part of the path to a new economy, to a new kind of society, to a sustainable future.
Do you want to spend your days in a company that has an important role in the transition to a more sustainable future, or don’t you care about the vision of the company concerning sustainability?

Belgian Federal Elections, green or not

Geplaatst op: 13 maart 2014 door maartentaekels in Geen categorie

Verkiezingen 2014

On May 25 the federal elections take place. Maybe you already know for which party you are going to vote, maybe you don’t. Maybe you are in for a better, or at least, greener future. And so am I. So, which party should you vote for?

Some time ago I started to investigate the election programs from the different parties. I traced their websites, looking for signs of a greener future.

In this prospect GROEN clearly offers an increase in renewable energy in the future and not to forget a controlled closure of our nuclear power plants (before 2025). Also N-VA is eager to change the energy landscape. They plead for a healthy mix of energy forms, including a nuclear exit before 2065. SP.A’s main focus is affordable energy for every household, but nevertheless they are also betting on renewable energy. CD&V on the other hand is less clear about its future energy plans. Their focus also lies with affordable energy, but whether this energy is green or not, that isn’t quite clear. The last party I will discuss is OPEN VLD, which, in my opinion, has a rather poor policy regarding green energy. They rather plead for a free energy market.

So, three out of five parties explicitly shared their views about a greener future. Some more ambitious than others, but will they succeed in the end? At least we have to give them the chance to prove what they are worth. What is your opinion looking at the different energy policies?

It is of course not my intention of this post to influence your vote. I just want you to gain some knowledge about the different party programs. By clicking on the name of the party, you will get some more information concerning their energy policy.

How to subsidize – The (bad) Belgian style

Geplaatst op: 6 maart 2014 door claessensphilip in Geen categorie

Belgium gives subsidies for a lot of things. And so does Flanders, and every community. That’s a good start to create an incomprehensible system.  The government also makes miscalculations all too often, or subsidizes the wrong things. Some examples:

When solar panels were first implemented on our roofs on large scale, the government gave €450 per “green energy certificate” (or 1000 kWh).  But the price of solar panels decreased and the subsidies were very high in comparison, so many people decided to install solar panels, making it very expensive for the government. Subsidies were lowered at a higher speed, and at the same time, the tax reduction was scrapped: the demand declined and several companies went bankrupt, causing the loss of jobs.  (Knack)

Next about cars: the government is subsidizing company cars, making Belgium the number one country for traffic jams and causing pollution that they have to compensate. (De tijd)

In the harbor of Ghent, a power plant running on coals has been rebuilt to a power plant running on wooden pellets. Investment: €125 million. The current policy makes that the owner gets €100 million of subsidies a year, during 10 years. That’s €1 billion of subsidies for an investment of €125 million!

The same applies to offshore-windfarms, but the government is working on a new system where the profitability is taken into account to determine the subsidies. (Knack)

I hope that a change towards a more durable society will soon take place in Belgium. For starters, they might take a look at the things they spend money on which have the opposite effect of what would actually be beneficial.

Short-term view

Geplaatst op: 2 maart 2014 door maartentaekels in Geen categorie


Today I would like to talk about the influence of politics on renewable energy. To strengthen my story, I will be using the following article. It is known that a lot of the old coal plants in Central and Eastern Europe should be replaced in the next few years. Besides that, a lot of nuclear power plants are also planned to close down. It is now up to European politicians to make decisions, i.e. actually replacing old plants with new ones or definitely close them down. And it is theirs decision that will determine if whether or not there will be a greener future.

 Everybody wants a greener future. And still, Europe keeps investing in pipelines, meant for the transportation of natural gas. Why is that? Keeping the financial crisis of 2008 in mind, Europe is nowadays still choosing for the short-term solution. This is to ensure the supply of natural gas which is (for the moment) still much cheaper than green energy. However, they tend to forget that on the longer term there will be a shortage of fossil fuels whatsoever. Though, the real problem seems to be a lack of long-term vision. New politician get elected every 4 to 5 years, so think of them starting their campaign by not promising benefits now, but only within 15 years.

 As long as we keep these short-term perspectives, climate will only change for the worse. A big effort is needed, but not only in politics. All too often people believe to think they don’t have a share in all this. “All that matters to me is to keep my job.” But think of green energy production as a breeding ground for new jobs and opportunities. So, by embracing green energy, we all embrace and ensure our own future.

The third industrial revolution: success or catastrophe

Geplaatst op: 26 februari 2014 door claessensphilip in Geen categorie

Germany has the goal to produce 80% of its power through renewable sources by 2050. Other countries are looking to Germany to see whether such a transformation is possible. Will Germany succeed, announcing the start of the third industrial revolution and having miles lead at that point, or will it fail, meaning that we still can’t live without fossil fuels?

One small village is a model for Germany (and the world): Feldheim. It is completely independent of the electricity grid: it has its own smart grid in the small village with 37 houses. There are 43 windmills in the village, but less than 1% of the generated energy is supplied to the village. Another important source: the biogas heat plant. The farm village has enough manure and abundant corn to power the plant. This plant makes sure that there is no energy shortfall when there is no wind. It also delivers heat to the houses.

One might think that shifting to renewables was an idealistic choice, but that’s not the case. It was an economical choice. The village was becoming obsolete, there was no work. Leasing their land to a company, Energiequelle, for the construction of windmills, provides the farmers with an income. Furthermore, the locals now pay 30% less for their electricity and 10% less for their heating. It goes even further: the biogas plant also provides fertilizer to the farmers, reducing costs even more. Feldheim also has an EV charging station and plans to install a 10 MW battery this year. Nearby, on an old military site, a solar farm has been installed.

The new technologies also created jobs: all the people in the town have a job, while other villages in the same state (Brandenburg) have a 30% unemployment rate. All of this attracts visitors, creating tourism, while there even isn’t a pub or a restaurant. There are more jobs possibilities than there are people in the town.

Yet, not every village has the same potential energy sources. Every village is different and will have to come up with its own solution.

I wonder what the drawbacks are. Apart from the view that some people dislike, and apart from the noise created by wind turbines, I can’t come up with any, and I haven’t found any neither.

Can you think of possible drawbacks?