About this theme

The world faces the enormous challenge of safeguarding energy supplies for the future. To this end we need acceptable prices, with minimal political and other risks and minimal impact on the climate. This worldwide problem can be solved only with radical new concepts and techniques.

In the Netherlands, research is being undertaken by a range of public and private parties, such as TNO, energy suppliers, the Dutch energy research institute ECN, KEMA and Shell. Their focus is on research with short and medium term applications. NWO sees it as its duty to promote fundamental energy research in the Netherlands as an extension of those activities. For example, NWO aims to contribute to sustainable solutions to the energy problem. The NWO institutes have an important role to play in this regard. For example, the research institute DIFFER focuses on nuclear fusion and solar fuels, and CWI (Centre for Mathematics and Computer Science) works on algorithms and smart software for electricity grids.

Scientists are investigating alternative energy sources, such as biomass, nuclear fusion, wind and sun. There is also a focus on energy storage, for example in the form of hydrogen. They are examining whether burning fossil fuels can be made cleaner and more efficient, and seeking a smarter approach to the distribution and storage of energy.

But however smart and efficient new technology is, its success or failure depends on the behaviour of the consumer. So the research also focuses on the social acceptance of new forms of energy. How can people be encouraged to use energy more efficiently? When does it become attractive for people to start generating their own energy using, for example, solar panels on the roof? And what are the consequences of political developments for our day-to-day energy supplies?

Topsector Energie

The Dutch cabinet has designated nine top sectors in which the Netherlands is a world leader and that the government will specifically focus on together with industry and researchers.

While global demand for energy is increasing, several countries have committed to making substantial reductions in their emissions of greenhouse gases such as carbon dioxide over the coming years. The Netherlands has set itself the target of emitting twenty per cent less carbon dioxide by 2020. It aims to achieve this by obtaining 14 percent of the energy it uses from sustainable sources.

Innovation is crucial in order to make sustainable energy more competitive, to achieve further energy savings and to make smarter and more efficient use of fossil energy sources. The top sector Energy will focus on seven areas in the coming years:

  • Biomass
  • Energy saving in industry
  • Gas
  • Smart grids
  • Sun (solar cells)
  • Offshore wind
  • Energy saving in the built environment


With the theme Sustainable Energy, NWO expects to be able to contribute in each of these focus areas by providing fundamental scientific knowledge. In this manner, NWO aims to help achieve the top sector's ambitions.