Wageningen University & Research (WUR) has been the world’s most sustainable university for five years running, and the 2021 GreenMetric ranking of Universitas Indonesia (UI) reaffirmed this leading position. The GreenMetric ranking measures the environmental sustainability of a University’s teaching and research, including energy use. Where does WUR stand in the energy transition and what are its plans for the future?

WUR Energy Transition 2050

The Executive Board approved the WUR Outline Energy Transition 2050 in late 2021. This plan outlines the route to a CO2 neutral energy supply for the university. It describes WUR’s energy ambitions and the concrete measures required to achieve them, such as heat pumps, LED lighting and energy neutral newbuild projects. Read more in the interview with energy coordinator Wouter van Leeuwen.

Implementation agenda for 2022-2026

An implementation agenda for the next five years is being prepared based on the WUR Outline Energy Transition 2050. This agenda is expected to be completed in 2022 and will describe a number of concrete activities.

Concrete activities to achieve measurable sustainability

All sustainability activities follow the principle of the ‘Trias Energetica’ concept, which comprises:

  • Step 1. Reduce the energy demand
  • Step 2. Use energy from renewable and/or sustainable sources
  • Step 3. Use finite fossil and other energy sources efficiently

Example activities

  • Insulation
  • Electrification of the heat demand
  • Storing energy for later use (because the sun does not always shine and the wind does not always blow)
  • Optimisation of the building management systems (BMS). These systems control the various installations in a building, primarily mechanical and electrical installations. A BMS facilitates technical energy-saving measures by automatically adjusting systems in buildings to the conditions
  • Sustainable energy generation on campus (e.g. solar panels or wind turbines on roofs or on other WUR property in combination with research goals)

University-wide activities to change energy behaviour

  • Field labs and experiments
  • PR campaigns
  • Providing users with information about sustainable behaviour and what it can achieve

The implementation agenda will be drawn up in cooperation with researchers, Real Estate & Housing specialists of the Facilities and Services department, and QSHE (Quality, Safety, Health and Environment) staff.

What have we achieved so far?

Wind energy

WUR operates 26 wind turbines at the Lelystad site. These turbines feed directly into the grid and produced 71,000 MWh in 2020 and 54,000 MWh in 2021. WUR researchers trade the generated electricity and Guarantees of Origin (GoOs) in cooperation with Facilities and Services’ procurement department. A Guarantee of Origin is a mandatory certificate for electricity producers that guarantees the source of their energy (gas, coal, wind, sun, biomass, etc.). Green certificates are valuable, which is why they are traded.

Solar energy

More and more roofs on WUR buildings on campus and at the field sites are producing solar energy, amounting to some 3300 MWh in 2021. This is abut 1000 times the yield of the average roof on a family home (3500 kWh). Most of this solar electricity was generated at the Edelhertweg site in Lelystad (about 800 MWh). The yield is expected to increase to about 5500 MWh over two to four years. This is approximately 10% of the electricity consumed by WUR.

Reducing natural gas consumption

A major project is currently underway on campus to connect all buildings to the ATES loop. This will allow us to reduce natural gas consumption by about 75% in 2025 compared to 2019. Aquifer Thermal Energy Storage (ATES) is a sustainable energy solution in which heat and cold are passed through a heat exchanger and then stored deep underground in an aquifer. In summer, buildings are cooled with cold water drawn from the aquifer, while in winter, the groundwater from the aquifer is passed through that same heat exchanger, but now in combination with a heat pump to provide heating in the building.

Purchasing sustainable energy

We currently purchase GoOs from Dutch renewable sources for all our energy needs, whereby all suppliers must comply with the mission and vision of WUR. In the future, suppliers will also need to explicitly include the measures described in the WUR Outline Energy Transition 2050 in their tenders.

Security of supply and affordability

Security of supply and affordability are key components of our energy policy. Our research activities must never be jeopardised, for example due to equipment being without power. So, security of supply is critical. Of course, affordability is important too, which we can achieve through centralised purchasing, for example.

Cooperation between WUR operational management and research

WUR is bringing about its energy transition through two routes: WUR’s own research into the energy transition in the Netherlands and abroad, and WUR’s own operational management, where we also aim to become climate neutral. Widespread cooperation between various researchers and employees of WUR offers us ample opportunities to connect the knowledge and expertise of both domains. Our expectations:

  • we can be a role model and offer showcases for all interested stakeholders and partners
  • we can benefit from small-scale experiments and scale these up on campus
  • cooperation will help to accelerate existing or enable new research projects
  • ‘walk the talk’: going green = being green
  • stronger links between teaching, research and operational management

In 2022 we plan to establish a number of concrete research projects and find funding for these. We will focus on research into energy generation and storage and investigate how to change energy behaviour through showcase experiments.

Sustainable generation dashboard

A dashboard which displays how much sustainable energy WUR generates, and by what means, will be presented on this site at a later date.