The Future of Energy According to Arash Aazami and Sander Mertens
Arash Aazami and Sander Mertens share the vision of an energy transition and we take a moment to reflect on the opportunities, challenges and their aspirations for the future.
“We have to dream big and bold and develop these dreams into action –in the end, all the differences that we make are not because we think of something, because we dream of something, but because we did something.”
In 2010 Arash founded an energy company that earned more as it would sell less energy. His ‘Path to Zero’ business model was awarded by MIT in 2014. Since 2015 he designs for an Internet of Energy to connect every human being to abundant renewable resources.
“We are facing a world-wide crisis in achieving balanced actions, this absence of balance can be noticed in capitalism where the rich get richer and the poor get poorer, in the use of materials, in absence of recycling strategies and in the carbon emissions linked to the use of energy.”
Sander Mertens is the professor of Energy in Transition at The Hague University of Applied Sciences, and the co-director of the centre of expertise, Mission Zero. His background is in entrepreneurship and physics and his focus is on a broad view of the energy transition.
What gets you out of bed in the morning?
AA: “What gets me out of bed in the morning is my mission, my belief that energy is a basic need and that it should be considered a basic right. People should be able to have unlimited access to the abundant wealth of renewable energy from our biggest source – nature.”
SM: “I love to work with a team of researchers and, together, develop ways to deal with our energy addiction, to find new methods to heat our homes, energise our cars, and find ways to match demand and supply of energy.’’
What are the biggest opportunities when it comes to the energy transition?
AA: “The biggest opportunity when it comes to the energy transition is that every human being can have access to renewable energy – the sun alone shines more than 1000 times than all humans need, for free, every day. Through digital technologies and radical new design of energy systems, every human can be connected to a vast Internet of Energy – and should be because everyone is valuable to the entire system. You can be a provider or producer, you can use energy at the right times and provide balance, you can contribute storage or conversion of energy – you can do it in a valuable way to anyone connected to the system.”
SM: “In my opinion, the biggest opportunity for the energy transition is to do it smart. We should create space needed for solar and wind parks, and also for materials, for a new renewable energy infrastructure.”
What are the biggest challenges when it comes to the energy transition?
AA: “The biggest challenge of the energy transition is that we should not regard this as a technology shift – switching technologies for another and being done. We have to change everything, when technology changes and we distribute the power to bring energy into the system, we also change the economy, we change how people interact and how they contribute to a better tomorrow, together. We need new laws and new regulations; everything changes when we change the energy system.”
SM: “The biggest challenge in the energy transition is to make rapid progress, I am not so sure how much time we have left for our energy transition – we are facing dramatic climate changes that cause enormous suffering, and perhaps irreversible effects. The key for progress is that we work on four different fields of expertise - technical, economic, public support, and governance - and try to find the balance between these fields. Solutions for the energy transition, are partly technical solutions, but they need certain economics to become viable and have enough support, and this is of course, influenced by governance and law structures.”
Looking ahead: An ideal future for energy
AA: “My ideal future in terms of energy looks like this: in 2050, energy is abundant, it’s free and is no longer burdened by markets and other scarcity-based concepts. Energy poverty is a concept of the past. Literally every human being can use all they need from abundant renewable resources and all are interconnected through a global grid to share value and together be more than the sum of all parts. It will not be a system of markets, it will be a system of commons – use what you like to make what you wish, and all together, contribute to an ever-advancing society.”
SM: “I hope we make the transition to renewable in 2050; renewable energy and accompanying technologies get cheaper and cheaper every day. Solar and wind power are already competing with fossil energy, this makes me optimistic about the speed of our energy transition, but we could achieve a much higher speed if we work together on the four fields of expertise that I mentioned.”
How do we get there?
AA: “Thinking different. Letting go of concepts of scarcity; look at nature and translate its concepts based upon abundance and interconnection into new natural energy realities. We should not design the future going from forecasting sub optimal systems into the future, we have to design it backwards, starting with our ideal future, and then back cast to define the steps to get there. My motto is therefore: Dream - Develop - Do.”
SM: “We do not know the precise goals in the other fields of expertise, so what is our final goal? We only know that we need a balance between the four different fields of expertise, so we have to do it together, there is no simple solution from a particular field of expertise. We have to travel together to our final goal in this energy transition, that is probably our biggest challenge.”
Have a look at Arash Aazami’s website to learn more about his pioneering work: https://aazami.com/
Read more about Sander’s research group Energy in Transition: https://www.thehagueuniversity.com/research/research-groups/details/energy-in-transition