In common with everyone, higher education is suffering from the increased cost of energy. There are huge sums involved. In 2021, the universities together spent nearly 100 million euros on water and energy, according to their annual reports.
Of all the universities, Utrecht paid the most: 16 million euros. A spokesperson confirmed that the rates for this year are fixed but that next year the university expects the costs to rise threefold to 48 million euros.
Maastricht University also expects higher prices now that the institution has had to cancel its contract with the Russian energy supplier Gazprom. The bill will increase by 5 to 8 million euros, University President Rianne Letschert predicted (in Dutch) on Radio 1. The buildings will probably close early to keep heating costs down and from now on every winter’s day will be ‘Warm Sweater Day’.
The University of Twente has the same problem It also cancelled the contract with Gazprom and now has to procure energy elsewhere. A spokesperson confirmed to RTV Oost that this indeed involves millions of euros.
TU Delft: accelerating energy transition
When asked, TU Delft states that it has no relationship with Gazprom, but “given the unpredictability of the market - and from a strategic point of view” does not want to make any concrete statements about the future either. “However, we do take into account an increase in energy costs,” a spokesperson informed.
The measures the university says it is taking to reduce current energy consumption are mainly targeted at the energy transition of the campus as a whole. “We are already working towards a carbon-neutral, circular and climate-adaptive campus by 2030. Currently, we are exploring where this could possibly be accelerated. After all, with the current situation, the importance of this and fossil fuel independence is only increasing.”
If the total energy bill rises threefold, the universities will have to find an additional 200 million euros. Gas and power would take a substantial bite out of the extra money they are getting from the government for higher education and research.
Will energy really be two or three times more expensive? It could even be more, because the price rises do not appear to be over yet. Gas is already nearly four times as expensive as last year and electricity has doubled in price. And who knows where it will stop?
Response from the Ministry of Education, Culture and Science
The Ministry of Education, Culture and Science is in discussion with the higher education sector, according to the spokesperson for Education Minister Robbert Dijkgraaf. The Ministry currently has no signals to the effect that institutions will experience continuity problems as a result of the price rises. The impact of the rising energy prices on educational institutions fluctuates and depends largely on whether institutions have fixed or variable contracts and when they concluded them.
The whole of the Netherlands faces or will face higher energy prices. Every year, institutions receive an annual wage and price adjustment in relation to their funding, which enables them to cover the price rises, at least partially. Additionally, the government has provided compensation in 2022, in particular via the Energy Tax. Educational institutions are eligible for this as well. A decision will be taken in the spring of 2023 about the price adjustment for 2023; the price rises are likely to be reflected in that, at least partially.”
HOP, Bas Belleman and Hein Cuppen / Delta