There is wide consensus among scientists and policy makers that an energy transition is urgent and essential in order to keep global warming within acceptable limits. This has been formalized in various international treaties and agreements, such as the Paris Agreement and, more recently, the European Green Deal, which introduces a new growth strategy for Europe, emphasizing the need for a just and inclusive transition for all.
Utrecht University and Eindhoven University of Technology are now joining forces by establishing a joint Fair Energy Transition Center. The Center aims at a comprehensive understanding of what a just and inclusive energy transition amounts to in an international context, turning climate and environmental challenges into opportunities.
The energy transition will have enormous impact on all dimensions of human life. It will have an impact on the global and local economies, on urban planning, on natural environments, on international relationships, on individual and collective life styles, and on habits regarding housing, heating, cooking and traveling, to mention only some. Importantly, some regions will be more affected than others by the move towards a green, climate-neutral economy. “There is much at stake. How we manage the energy transition may well determine whether different regions of the world will live peacefully together or compete (violently) for scarce natural resources, including water and land” according to project leader Prof. Marcus Düwell.
The complex interrelationships between all the elements mentioned above raise the question how to assess energy transition policies in terms of their environmental, economic, social, moral and political implications. This does require technology assessment in form of an integrative assessment, since it is well-known that social, economic and political dimensions are decisive for the success of energy transitions. Moreover, the transition needs to be just and inclusive on a global scale, between generations, and between different social groups and regions. If it is not fair, it will not be acceptable for and accepted by many of the stakeholders who need to carry out the energy transition. Considerations of fairness and justice should thus be integral parts of future developments of energy technologies.
STRONG GROUPS IN ENERGY RESEARCH
Jointly the Universities of Utrecht and Eindhoven are particularly well equipped to contribute to such an integrative assessment. Both universities have strong groups in energy research. Both universities have excellent groups in sociology, psychology, history, philosophy, economy, and innovation studies, with internationally leading scholars on sustainability research and expertise on participation, cooperation, behavior change, perceptions of fairness, justice, and risks, modelling and simulations.
TOOLS, EDUCATION AND IMPACT
The scientific aim of the envisioned Center is to develop the relevant methodological tools necessary for an integrative assessment of the various options for a fair energy transition in which no person and no place is left behind. The aim in terms of education is to introduce interdisciplinary topics on a fair energy transition in BSc and MSc educational programs at Eindhoven and Utrecht. Regarding societal impact the Center will address the urgent request of policy makers for more integrative approaches assessing energy transitions operating in national and international context (UN, OECD, EU).