How academia contributes to the world’s net zero ambitions
Author: Joël Mesot
According to the United Nation’s Net Zero Coalition, “The energy sector is the source of around three-quars of greenhouse gas emissions today and holds the key to averting the worst effects of climate change”. The good news is that much of the technology required to establish fossil-free energy systems is either already on the market or well underway in university research labs. University leaders face increasing pressure to advance net zero and generate solutions for society. In cooperation with industry, universities play an important role in the energy transition. They serve as “living labs” developing, testing, and upscaling innovative energy and climate technologies. For example, ETH Zurich strives to become climate neutral by 2030, recently releasing a white-paper outlining its path to net zero. This is a long-time coming and a gradual process. In 2006, ETH Zurich resolved to gradually replace its natural gas heating with an experimental, energy-efficient, and sustainable underground storage system, called the Anergy Grid. Instead of releasing waste heat into the atmosphere, the system’s 200-metre (656 feet) deep geothermal fields store waste heat underground. They also supply seasonal heating and cooling off for 14 of our campus’ buildings, with plans for expansion. The Anergy Grid reduced CO2 emissions by approximately 8,000 tons annually.