In 2017, VU Amsterdam and VUmc joined forces to draw up the 2035 Energy Master Plan. This describes the transition from energy management to a sustainable VU campus. The ambition is to be in the top 3 of universities and university medical centres in the Netherlands in the area of sustainable, affordable and reliable energy within ten years.
VU Amsterdam and VUmc are working hard to become fossil-free by 2035, which means 100% natural gas-free in combination with 100% sustainably generated electricity. In the period leading up to 2021, more than 21 million euros will be invested in energy measures such as the further optimization of emergency power supplies and heat-cold storage. From now until 2035, all natural gas-driven turbines and boilers will be phased out. The City of Amsterdam’s policy is to become fossil-free by 2050.
Current energy supply
- Energy savings is an important objective for VU Amsterdam and VUmc, because what you save does not have to be generated or bought. At VU Amsterdam, on average, more than 2% per year is saved on a long-term basis. The Green Office student initiative is also committed to saving energy through various campaigns such as ‘warm pullover day’.
- Electricity is generated locally by the Energy Coordination Center (CCE) on the VU campus (approximately 45%) and with the part that we have to buy, we support government policy on fully renewable and sustainably generated electricity. We purchase electricity through an energy supplier and guarantee environmental quality through guarantees originating from Dutch and European wind energy. Our ambition is to increase the share of Dutch wind energy by at least 10% annually. By harvesting as much urban wind energy on the VU campus as possible and by placing photovoltaic solar cells on buildings, the share of sustainable electricity will continue to increase.
- The heating and cooling of the buildings is partly the result of a thermal energy storage system (WKO) underneath the VU campus. We also get cooling from the Nieuwe Meer lake in front of the ACTA and O|2 Lab buildings. In addition, natural gas is also used to meet the energy requirement. Of all the fossil fuels, gas is the least damaging to the environment. Incineration of natural gas, however, is still associated with CO2 and NOx emissions. These are emissions that impact the greenhouse effect and the acidification of the environment. However, sustainable gas is not yet available on a sufficient scale in the Netherlands.
Current energy use
To offer students, patients, employees and visitors at VU Amsterdam and VUmc a pleasant and healthy working environment 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, a lot of energy is needed. The university’s and medical center’s need for electricity, heat and cooling adds up to approximately 1 petajoule (PJ) in 2016, which is comparable to roughly 16,000 homes or almost a quarter of the total number of homes in the city of Amsterdam. VU Amsterdam and VUmc would like to realize an efficient and sustainable energy management question and go straight to the source to meet demand. Every year, the university and the hospital publish their carbon footprint. In this footprint, all energy consumption (fuel for vehicles, energy generation, electricity, heat supply, passenger transport, freight and refrigerants) is converted into total carbon dioxide production. In this way, our transition to fully sustainable and fossil-free will be visible to everyone in 2035.
Green certificates - 100% generated by wind
VU Amsterdam compensates for the CO2 emissions created from the generation of its energy by buying certificates for electricity from renewable sustainable sources. In the past, the university used sustainable electricity through certificates for electricity generated from Norwegian hydropower. We decided to change this in 2016, in line with government policy. We now make use of sustainable electricity that has been generated by the wind: 10% of it comes from the Netherlands, and 90% from Europe.
In addition to technical measures, there is a focus on energy awareness. For example, the buildings have, or are getting, energy information boards, and we are taking part in national campaigns like the Warme Truiendag (‘warm pullover day’), Earth Hour and Nacht van de Nacht (‘night of the night’). Solutions away from the campus are also being examined, to see if they are more efficient. Existing buildings are being dealt with too. This includes such aspects as replacing lighting, presence detectors, good housekeeping, using equipment more efficiently, and energy reduction in the field of IT. Action teams consisting of students and employees alike are being set up for each building. The teams will actively contribute ideas towards reducing energy in the various buildings.
VU Amsterdam: the first university with Street Charge
VU Amsterdam is the first university to have its own Street Charge on its Campusplein, making it the second location in the Netherlands to have one, after Museumplein in Amsterdam. The Street Charge is a charging station that uses solar energy, for mobile phones and tablets.