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Energy efficiency success stories

This week, our writer Alaina Levine reports for EuroScientist from the AAAS conference in Washington DC, USA.

Europeans have been sharing their energy efficiency success stories with colleagues from across the Pond. The German state of Baden-Württemberg has an ambitious energy efficiency goal: by 2020, it aims to have 20% of its energy emanate from renewable resources. To make this happen, significant research, development, and educational assets will have to be allocated, and critical partnerships will have to be forged. But after listening to Dr. Hans-Jochen Schiewer, Rector of the University of Freiburg address this issue at the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) conference this weekend, it seems that Germany is already more than on its way.

In a session entitled, “Energy Efficiency in Europe and the United States: Success Stories and Future Potentials”, Schiewer discussed a three-pronged strategy to improve energy consumption and research innovation, which focuses on fostering cross-governmental collaboration, novel research endeavors, and crucially-needed educational programs. The plan has already been implemented, and Schiewer highlighted examples of each element of the strategy:

Building cross-governmental alliances

The Karlsruhe Institute of Technology (KIT), founded in 2009, is a prime illustration of a unique research institute which draws resources from the EU, and federal and state agencies in-country. Its e-mobility battery research projects involve 20 institutions and 250 researchers, and generates 25 Million Euro in grant funding each year. Schiewer says that its serves as a center for energy research not just in Germany, but for all of Europe.

Bolstering novel research programs

The Renewable Energy Institute of Microsystems at the University of Freiburg is an excellent example of orchestrating unique research enterprises that support renewable energy, and in turn, establish the university, state, and even the country as an energy research leader. Scholars at Freiburg are conducting studies on the novel concept of harvesting waste energy, from heat, vibrations, and chemical reactions. The outcome includes autonomous embedded systems which are almost futuristic sounding: one potential application could be a pacemaker that is powered by the heat of one’s own blood.

Nurturing economically-important educational programs

Also at the University of Freiburg, is a PhD program, established in 1996, devoted to power management. Currently, according to Schiewer, it is the largest research program in microenergy in Europe. The university also has an online master’s program which focuses on increasing efficiency of photovoltaic solar cells. The institution is further partnering with the University of Ulm, also in Baden-Württemberg, to grow its doctorate program relating to energy storage device technology.

Freiburg, which was named the most energy efficient city in Germany last year, is vigorously pushing this three-pronged model. “Freiburg is a model town to implement such structures to become an energy efficiency city of the future,” said Schiewer.

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Alaina Levine

Alaina G. Levine is a noted science careers consultant, speaker, and science writer. She is President of Quantum Success Solutions, a leadership training enterprise with a focus on advancing the professional development expertise of scientists and engineers, and she has been advising emerging and established scientists and engineers about their careers for over a decade. The author of over 100 articles pertaining to science, science careers and business in such publications as Science, Nature, Scientific American Online and New Scientist, Levine also pens the Profiles in Versatility career column for the American Physical Society's publication, APS News.
Alaina Levine

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