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Keeping an eye on reliability

2012-06-29

Daniel Scholten, an assistant professor at Delft University of Technology, has defended the first thesis, Keeping an Eye on Reliability, of the research program 

Daniel Scholten (center) is surrounded by the examination committee at Delft University of Technology, Delft, on 29 June 2012 (Photo: T. Scholten) Daniel Scholten (center) is surrounded by the examination committee at Delft University of Technology, Delft, on 29 June 2012 (Photo: T. Scholten)

Mr Scholten, a specialist of institutions and policies about renewable energy systems, goes beyond the fact that the reliability of energy infrastructures depends on technology. He argues that it also pertains to the organizational structure that enables and constraints infrastructure operators in their management of operations.

Most of the ongoing researches on energy transition go about technical innovation, the emergence of new markets and the corresponding policies. The originality of Scholten’s work stem from his framework in which he pinpoints the organizational structures required for the reliable operations of renewable energy infrastructures.

Departing from an analytical framework that mixes technology and institutions, Scholten identifies the organizational requirements of the technological characteristics of energy systems in a simple yet effective manner. His result is a stepwise progression that moves from several critical technical functions and their control mechanisms to the responsibilities and roles that they imply for the entities involved in their operation and, finally, to the organizational structure that may facilitate the latter.

Hydrogen as a motor fuel

Scholten applies his innovative approach to the case of hydrogen as a motor fuel in the Netherlands, as the European Union’s HyWays project has depicted it. He shows the characteristics of the hydrogen network at different point in time and their corresponding organizational structure that facilitate reliable operations. Furthermore, he discusses the implications of neglecting the organizational dimension of reliability in the development of renewable energy systems, such as organizational lock-ins and path dependencies.

This research was part of the EDGaR project Towards sustainable gas distribution systems, under the leadership of Rolf Künneke, an associate professor at Delft University of Technology. The project seeks notably "to provide insights into possible technical and institutional transition paths that support the development towards sustainable gas distribution systems." With his book Keeping an Eye on Reliability, Mr Scholten lay down the cornerstone of this research project.

By Jean-François Auger