Interview with Maxime Vuylsteke, President of the Young Energy Reviewers Association (YERA)
The decarbonising of heating and cooling will not be achieved by one single technology. Instead, multiple solutions should be developed and integrated as a whole. ‘’The next big thing will be a lot of small things.’’
On a household level, for example, solar boilers, heat pumps, fuel cells, etc. all are able to provide a solution. Although definitely a step in the right direction, one must not forget the possibility of developing an integrated system which covers multiple households. A relevant example here would be the heat network in the Belgian city of Harelbeke which recycles heat from the combustion of waste. Perhaps, it might be necessary that the general public takes on a somewhat more open, altruistic approach when considering these types of innovative solutions. Because people are still scared of these solutions, that something will happen and they end up power or heatless.
On the industry level, we make the same argument: a true carbon-free heating and cooling system will only arise from the collaboration of a multitude of technologies. One breakthrough technology (granted, still in start-up phase) might be the heat-exchanger developed by Q-pinch. Quite some sectors in the industry currently lose a vast amount of power through ‘waste’ heat. Their newly developed chemical heat exchanger is able to recycle this heat with efficiencies higher than any other conventional technology. The recycled heat can then be used for neighbouring households and/or industry. Also, data analysis technologies also are able to reduce the power consumption of industrial companies. In conclusion, we argue for the integration of several technologies in both industry and households in order to reach a significant impact. The technologies briefly mentioned here provide a small start, but much remains to be done in order to achieve the 2050 goals.
What is your contribution to this vision as stakeholder in your professional environment, but also as individual?
Since as students our professional environment is fairly limited, we will only mention our individual efforts. In general, we are aware of the importance of this topic and act accordingly. E.g., when buying/renting a house/apartment, one of the important factors would be a high energy-efficiency.
Who do you think is the strongest ally in making your vision of a decarbonised Europe a reality?
To make this all possible the green solution also needs to be the best solution otherwise people will not invest in this. This will not apply in one day because the fossil fuels are still very cheap in comparison with the green solutions. Before we get there I think a lot transition is needed.