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European Energy Conference in Maastricht, The Netherlands

“We need more qualified technicians. Currently only 2 out of 10 students in the Netherlands choose a technical education, but this number needs to be doubled. Other European countries face a similar challenge if we are to keep up with the rest of the world.” This was the challenging statement that former Shell CEO Jeroen van der Veer left the audience with after his speech at the European Energy conference in Maastricht, The Netherlands.

The event brought together researchers, policy makers and business representatives to discuss the development of a sustainable energy future for Europe. The opening lecture was given by Javier Solana, who addressed the geo-political difficulties that accompany our current dependence on oil and gas imports, a message that was underlined by Steven Koonin during his talk in which he discussed the US efforts in the field of sustainable energy development.

After the morning plenary sessions the afternoons were devoted to parallel symposia, covering various topics. Some highlights were the talk by Edward Jobson from Volvo who gave a perspective on development in (urban) busses, where use efficiency gains are to be made by progressive electrification of the different systems on a bus, a contribution by Jean-Marc Cavedon in which he covered the strategies employed in increasing the safety of nuclear reactors, which are relying more and more on physical principles (like gravity and evaporation) than fallible pumps and generators in case of an emergency. Also the developments in artificial photosynthesis, which allows direct conversion of sunlight into hydrogen or organic molecules, presented by James Barber provide exciting possibilities to fuel our cars.

A big part of the Friday morning plenary session was devoted to fusion. After ITER director general Osamu Motojima had given an overview of the ITER project, EFDA leader Francesco Romanelli introduced the audience to the remaining challenges for fusion to take its role in the future energy mix. With the new ITER like wall JET is already developing strategies for ITER to tackle these issues.

This concluded an intense week of informative talks, exciting discussions and new ideas for the future. It was both very interesting and stimulating to see all the different research that is being done in the world of sustainable energy, to learn more about the policies that drive it and hear about the way in which companies bring it to the market.

Merlijn Jakobs