Energy Evolution: The Sustainable Steps of Maastricht University

On 2 April 2022, the Dutch government launched the “Zet ook de knop om” campaign to encourage households and businesses to save energy with practical tips. The campaign initially tried to reduce the dependence of the Netherlands on Russian gas. However, it has since contributed to broader efforts regarding the energy transition, particularly in reducing CO2 emissions. Maastricht University has responded to the government's call, yielding positive results!

In addition to the ongoing sustainability plans as part of Sustainable UM 2030, the university has implemented additional measures, with all faculties and service centres contributing. The goal is to control the impact of rising energy prices by reducing energy consumption. A coordinated approach involving all stakeholders in the use and management of buildings and facilities is essential.

The university has taken various measures, including lowering temperatures by two degrees during the heating season and reducing cooling in the summer. Furthermore, the university has limited building opening hours by bundling activities in the evenings and weekends. Facility Services, in collaboration with building managers, has optimised the settings of climate control systems and turned off unnecessary lights in corridors. ICTS has also taken measures to reduce energy consumption of network equipment, including a clean-up operation and adjusting settings.

All efforts have paid off, resulting in significant energy savings and CO2 reduction. Comparing energy figures is not an easy task. Due to the lockdowns during the COVID-19 crisis in 2020 and 2021, energy consumption decreased significantly. When adjusting the university's natural gas consumption for weather effects, it appears that natural gas usage decreased by 12% in 2022 compared to 2019 and by 16% in 2023. These figures reflect the effects of ongoing sustainability plans and additional crisis measures. The natural gas savings in 2022 and 2023 are equivalent to the annual consumption of 543 households and a CO2 reduction of 1,340 tons.

Despite numerous measures, the total electricity consumption in university buildings increased by 12% in 2022 and 2023 compared to 2019. This can be attributed to an increase in the number of staff and students. Additionally, UM has grown and is using more buildings, including a new laboratory building. Furthermore, the energy transition leads to increased electricity usage due to the shift from natural gas to electricity for heat generation; the renovated Tapijn 11 is a prime example of this. The positive effects of the saving measures on electricity consumption are also evident in individual buildings. For example, in Tongersestraat 53, one of the university's largest buildings, electricity consumption in 2023 was 15% lower than in 2019. The purchased electricity is greener with Guarantees of Origin from Dutch solar and wind sources, with a significant portion coming from the Belvédère solar park in Maastricht.

To continue energy savings and the energy transition in the coming years, the Executive Board decided in March 2023 to allocate €27.2 million from the housing fund. This funding is intended for the sustainable development of the university’s real estate until 2030. One of the first major steps is the installation of LED lighting in all buildings. The university has opted for a future-proof system that can be linked to a building's climate control systems, enabling additional energy savings. Furthermore, the dialogue with the municipality regarding the approach to single glass in listed buildings has been intensified. At short notice, Facility Services will appoint a programme manager for the sustainable development of the university’s real estate.

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