New Energy for a New Era of Earth History

Academic year2018-2019
Day(s)Mondays and Wednesdays
Time18.00 - 21.00
Number of meetings12
Dates of all meetings5, 7, 12, 14, 19, 21, 26, 28 November, 3, 10 and 12 December 2018
LocationVrije Universiteit, De Boelelaan 1105, 1081 HV Amsterdam
RoomWednesday 7, 14 and 21 November: BV- 1H24

All other dates: BV-1H50

The rooms are located in the BelleVU building which is number 1091 at this map)
  • Jan Wijbrans, VU-AW (coordinator)
  • Clint Cowan, Carleton College (coordinator)
  • Julia Blasch, VU-IVM
  • Wouter Botzen, VU-IVM
  • Pieter van Beukering, VU-IVM
  • Philipp Pattberg, VU-IVM
  • Paolo Scussolini, VU-IVM
  • Ramon Loosveld, Shell, expert in geothermal energy
  • Jan de Jager, VU-AW
  • Gert Jan Kramer, U-Utrecht, Copernicus Institute of Sustainable Development
  • Salomon Kroonenberg, TU-Delft
  • Jan Leen Kloosterman, TU-Delft, Reactor Institute Delft
  • Huub den Rooijen, The Crown Estate, Department of Energy, Minerals and Infrastructure
  • Paul Koutstaal, PBL
  • Diederik Samsom, EBN

Course Description

In 2017 it was 45 years ago that the Club of Rome, lead authors Donella and Dennis Meadows, published their report on Limits to Growth. Arguably, the roots of the green movement world-wide can be traced to publication of this report. While the report was influential when it comes to thinking about scenarios for societal future, the world community has been slow to act upon its recommendations.

 Main course elements and concepts

The environmental movement structured itself into the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, as anthropogenic greenhouse gas driven climate change was perceived to be the most urgent of the consequences of unlimited and unchecked economic and population growth. Whereas the focus of the general public and their elected governments have been slow to systematically investigate the potential of renewable energy, technologies required for a global roll out of sustainable energy is now becoming increasingly available. Nevertheless, the world needed a kick-start to get into motion, and within the European Union it was Germany, immediately after the Fukushima nuclear disaster that with the announced Energiewende may now be leading the much required change in thinking about availability of energy.

The course New Energy for a new Era of Earth History will review different aspects of the issues related to securing future availability of in a changing societal setting:

1.      The introductory lecture will reflect on the impact of the Meadows report on our thinking about population growth, economic growth and availability of energy and resources to drive a technological society.

2.     Earth scientists will review the state of availability of fossil fuels and their contribution to make the Energy Transition possible (De Jager and Cowan).

3.     Physicists and Earth Scientists (Cowan and Kramer) will review the importance of high-energy density fuels that will be necessary, in particular in the transport sector: alternatives to fossil hydrocarbons, oil and natural gas: hydrogen, alcohols and green gas solutions, and other alternatives that are part of natural cycles. 

4.     Physicists will review new green technologies including renewable energy sources: earth, wind, and water, but also thorium salt technology for ‘green nuclear energy’.

5.     The colleagues of the Institute for Environmental Studies (IVM) will focus on economic factors associated with energy transition, and sociological aspects. We hope to invite a high profile speaker in the societal debate for a concluding lecture tying all strands together.

Working formats and activities

For the course we have selected a number of leading Netherlands scientists to present lectures on aspects of the energy transition. There will be a team of three core teachers, the course coordinator and two additional teachers, one with a socio-economic background and one with a background in the sciences who offer an increased level of association with the course.

During each three hour session, one or two guest speakers will review an aspect of energy transition, the seminars are each followed with time for discussion with the speakers. The team core teachers will have a moderator task in these discussions.

We aim to set up a number of group projects where the class will work independently on a project in small project teams, and report back to the group either in the form of posters or presentations during a final Transition Energy workshop meeting to be organised by the students themselves. Diederik Samsom, currently board member and advisor at EBN will be the moderator of the workshop event.

Assessment Methods

25% - lecture summaries of each of the lectures, and in a concluding essay explore the ties between the individual lectures. 50% - students work in groups on projects within the theme of Energy Transition, and report on this in a written report. 25% - Student organise and contribute to the Energy Transition workshop to be held as the final session of the course on the VU Campus.


Downloadable journal articles, reports and papers.