Dr Bob van der Zwaan
- Sustainable Energy Technology
If the energy transition is to succeed and be completely free of harmful CO2 emissions by 2050, a great deal of research and thought is needed. TNO has developed advanced calculation models for calculating future scenarios. These help policy makers to make the right choices.
These computer models cannot predict the future. The long-term uncertainties are too great for that, both positive and negative. In a few years' time, a technology that is still considered to have no chance of success may suddenly trigger a breakthrough. Conversely, a promising technology is being lost because it has been overtaken by a different technology or because the consumer has no money to pay for it.
We nourish our models with all conceivable data: the latest state of the art, technologies under development here or elsewhere in the world, market movements, changing business and consumer needs and all other factors that may influence the energy transition. After all, this issue is cross-border like no other and requires a global view.
The complexity of this subject can be illustrated with one example: the reuse of CO2. Just being able to drive and fly will require fuel-based carbon for a long time to come. Carbon is also indispensable as a basis for plastics. The question is whether and how CO2 is an alternative to this. Is sufficient CO2 available, how much energy does it take to convert CO2 into which products and can that be done with sustainably generated energy? Everything is connected to everything else. That is why we need models that can link all the factors together in order to make good decisions on the basis of them.
TNO has computer models for the global energy supply, TIAM-ECN. We have a very detailed calculation model for the Dutch energy system. In this way, we calculate the effects of government measures on all sections of society. The uniqueness of our knowledge is the ability to combine technological knowledge with developments in the market and government policy. For example, we know everything about the current and future models of wind turbines, capacity, height, efficiency, as well as cost developments. That gives us a sharper view of the future, with all its unpredictability.
We develop and share our knowledge with research institutions and companies in our country and beyond. In European projects, other countries learn from us and we learn from them. It is interesting to see which measures abroad lead to which effects and whether these can be of value here. As a producer of solar panels, China has changed the market here and brought prices down. What are the consequences for our country when a country such as India or a continent such as Africa suddenly makes a drastic change of course? The future of our energy supply is largely determined outside the Netherlands. Our research answers these questions.