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This content is taken from the University of Groningen's online course, Solving the Energy Puzzle: A Multidisciplinary Approach to Energy Transition. Join the course to learn more.

Skip to 0 minutes and 12 seconds Welcome to this week’s module, which is towards renewable energy and why the energy transition should have a place. My name is Christian Zuidema. I work at the Department of Spatial Planning and Environment of the Faculty of Spatial Sciences and I want to discuss with you the spatial consequences of shifting towards renewable energy. First of all, I want to bring you into space. This is, of course, not the thing that we at our faculty are dealing with, because we are really dealing with space on the planet Earth itself. But still, I want to bring you here and I want you to imagine that you are an alien and you’re in a spaceship approaching planet Earth.

Skip to 0 minutes and 54 seconds And at a certain moment, you see this from your window. And actually, if you look outside of your window, you see something there on this planet’s surface and you wonder. And maybe you would say to your colleague, hey, look outside. What is going on here? There’s some kind of weird geological phenomena that might be taking place here. Or maybe there is something like a weird parasite that is doing something to the planet’s surface. And then, you look and actually, you figure out it’s the second. The human species is the one that is causing all this energy to produce the light that you see from space.

Skip to 1 minute and 29 seconds But the important thing is not that we use so much energy, because there is a lot of energy on the planet. There’s a lot of energy that comes from the Sun. The problem is that most of this energy is actually being used based on fossil fuels. And these fossil fuels, there are some problems. It is not just climate change that we’re worried about. There are also geopolitical relations that we want to take into account and also fossil fuels, they are not renewable. And slowly, we’re running out of them, which means that ideally, we want to look for something different. And this something different are renewable energies. The question, however, is with renewable energies that these are actually visible.

Skip to 2 minutes and 9 seconds Renewable energy is something that you can actually see in the landscape. It is something you can see in the urban areas, solar panels. Or maybe something with wind in the rural landscapes, where you see big wind farms, where you also see the windmills that are nowadays sometimes 150 or 200 metres high. Or big biodigesting plants– they have consequences for space, both rurally and urban. And these consequences are not necessarily something we enjoy, because we might know that we don’t want to have more nuclear energy. Fukushima, Chernobyl– we’re a bit worried.

Skip to 2 minutes and 44 seconds We might not necessarily want to depend on oil too much anymore, not just because of the climate consequences or that it’s running out, but also because of the oil spills. Coal has its own consequences and we’re not always too happy about that. And in the meantime, we’re also not necessarily happy with a wind farm in the backyard. So the question then is, if there are so much spatial consequences related to renewables, should we not also pay attention to the spatial aspects? First of all, the spatial consequences of shifting towards a more renewable energy system will not just be physical.

Skip to 3 minutes and 19 seconds They will have such deep consequences that we simply have to take them into account if we want to avoid problems with regards to actually making such a shift. But on the other hand, I also think that maybe thinking spatially could also be beneficial, because there might actually be opportunities to make linkages between renewable energy and existing land use functions. And if this is the case, then thinking spatially is not just important to deal with the consequences of renewable energy, but also maybe to use renewable energy as something that can be beneficial for the landscape. Of course, it’s not that simple but that is also what this week’s module is all about.

Skip to 3 minutes and 57 seconds If we have a look at the objectives of this week, first of all, I want you at the end of this week to be able to explain the spatial consequences of integrated renewable energy in energy systems with sensitivity to specific regional or local circumstances. Essentially, I want you to be able to understand what it actually means if we shift towards renewable energy. What does actually change in space? On the other hand, the second objective then is, I want you to explain the conditioning role of area-based conditions for altering energy systems and energy initiatives and also the likelihood for success or failure.

Skip to 4 minutes and 36 seconds Essentially, I want you then to explain that actually, space can be conditioning also in a positive way, so essentially that if we think spatially, it might become easier to make an energy transition. So then, this week’s programme– we start, of course, with really trying to better understand the issue, which means that I want you to have a look at the historical development of what we call “energy landscapes,” but also based on that, to really have a better feel for what kind of spatial consequences we can expect and how big these spatial consequences are. Based on that, we actually want to continue and we want to also understand what is needed.

Skip to 5 minutes and 14 seconds What is needed is first of all, innovation also within space and within spatial sciences. But next to it is innovation. We also need planning and governance to help us actually do this. And at the end, we kind of want to have answers. Now obviously, the answer will not exist, but nevertheless, there are some areas and there are some avenues where we might be able to find these answers, first of all with regards to area-based developments, which is what I want to discuss, but also a combination of more or less robust networks and flexibility with regards to these innovations, hybrid systems. Now, these six topics will be central this week. Then, what is your job?

Skip to 5 minutes and 53 seconds Your job, of course, is to be inspired. That’s what we hope, but also to read the material. And also if you’re interested, look out on the internet. Try and find some YouTube films and things that we actually offer you so that you have a feel for what this week is going to be all about.

Towards renewable energy?

In this video Christian Zuidema, assistant professor of Spatial Planning, introduces the relevance of spatial planning for discussing a shift towards a more sustainable energy system. Also, he introduces the activities for this week.

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This video is from the free online course:

Solving the Energy Puzzle: A Multidisciplinary Approach to Energy Transition

University of Groningen