The EUR could spend an additional € 1.1 million on energy costs next year, Executive Board Vice-President Ellen van Schoten expects. The university is considering closing one or more buildings if the energy crisis so requires. How concrete is that plan?
Weustink: “The government is considering whether it can ask institutions to do something about their energy consumption. We want to make a plan in advance. Part of that plan is to close buildings. Some of our buildings are connected to district heating, while others have a geothermal heat pump (GHP). We could keep some buildings open and heat them with GHPs and close a few others that are connected to district heating.
“At the same time, it’s also a good idea for us to think about our energy consumption – even without an order from the government. Do we want to keep all our buildings open in the evening hours like we do now, or are we going to take a more sensible approach? We’re currently developing a proposal on which buildings can be closed in the evening. The library and the Polak building will stay open due to the study spaces. If staff want to work in the evenings, they can do so there. We haven’t yet decided which building will close how much earlier.”
Which buildings are heated with a GHP?
Jol: “The library, Polak, Sanders and the new sports building, and the multi-purpose education building II which is set to open. We also hope to connect Theil building and the Erasmus Pavilion by the end of the year.”
Is the heating from GHPs free, then?
Jol: “No, it isn’t free. The system contains several pumps that run on electricity. So it doesn’t need district heating, but it does require electricity. We want to use the GHPs as much as possible because there could be a gas shortage this winter, which could also lead to a district heating shortage. The government could then implement a plan in which certain customers are given priority. In that case, we can reduce our usage of district heating in buildings that run on the GHPs.”
Can you paint a picture of what the campus will look like this winter under the plan?
Weustink: “An important aspect is turning the thermostat down to 19 degrees. And I can imagine that it would be wise to close two buildings that aren’t connected to the GHP after 7.00 pm, for example.”
‘Staff can adjust the thermostat in their department themselves, but we’re on the other side of the controls’
Is there a central control for the thermostat, or will you have to keep an eye on all departments to make sure they don’t secretly set the thermostat too high?
Weustink: “If only we had a central control!”
Jol: “Every building has its own system and quirks. Our maintenance company Croonwolter en Dros has to configure the right settings for the valves and water temperature in each building. Staff can adjust the thermostat in their department themselves, but we’re on the other side of the controls and can make sure the flow temperature is lower. This prevents people from raising the temperature by simply pressing the button on the thermostat.”
‘We want to reduce our energy consumption in any case, and we want to be prepared if we’re asked to close buildings’
The university’s energy bill is expected to increase by € 1.1 million next year. Is there a target figure in this plan for reducing energy consumption or costs?
Weustink: “No, there isn’t. We want to reduce our energy consumption in any case, and we want to be prepared if we’re asked to close buildings. Fortunately, we’ll be able to keep many essential buildings open since they run on GHPs.”
Secondary schools are once again talking about opening the windows because of the coronavirus. That will clash with plans to use less energy. What impact does the coronavirus have on Erasmus University’s energy plans?
Jol: “We’re a bit more advanced than the average school, I think. By that, I mean that most of our buildings have an air treatment system that draws in outside air and extracts contaminated air. This meets the standards and requirements for ventilation. The system also performs heat recovery, which takes the heat from the outgoing air and warms the incoming air slightly. So we don’t have to open any windows.”