Energy Transition Lab – Border Sessions

Energy Transition Lab

European cities have high ambitions to become energy and/or carbon neutral. Ambitions are good, but time is running out. We face tough challenges. How do we remain comfortable and healthy in our homes without investing enormous amounts of money or radically changing our lives? The focus is often on technology. There are many discussions about which tech we should adopt and sometimes it seems like we wait for the silver bullet to magically turn up.

Can we shift the discussion a bit?

Perhaps one of the most important questions is: what are the social and organizational dynamics of the energy transition? If we turn into producers, if we implement decentralised systems, if it takes a hundred sources to supply the city with sustainable energy? Who’s client and who’s controlling the supply chain? What does bottom-up really mean? What do we mean with “collective”? Who should follow whom? Who is in the position to decide on preferred solutions. Just a couple of questions to chew on.

This lab will unite innovators to define what our forefront of energy innovation labs should work on to turn European cities energy neutral if they take up the social and organizational challenges parallel to the tech. We will prototype, debate, create absurd organisations and ultimately build a valuable instrument all participants can take away before the final networking starts.

10:00 introduction by Maurijn de Heus (Enpuls) & Nienke Maas (Haags Energienetwerk)
10:10 presentation by Melle Smets & Kris De Decker, Human Powered Healtcare
10:30 presentation by Johan Boekholt (VVE Zonnecoach)
10:50 first assignment Design The Ridiculous Organization & The Impossible Organization
11:30 second assignment Create Awkward Prefered Future Scenarios
12:15 lunch
13:15 presentation Else Veldman (Mashville)
13:35 start prototyping, choose your challenge:

Coop: Build a Energy Cooperation for Tenants in Escamp The Hague
Energy Monks: Create a Perfect Space for Energy Transition Collaboration
FreeLabs: Perfect Neighbourhood Labs Anywhere

15:00 break
15:15 continue prototyping
16:00 wrap up
16:30 closing by Maurijn de Heus & Nienke Maas
17:00 drinks


Melle Smets is an artist, researcher and curator with a career of more than fifteen years. He has directed numerous creative collectives across Europe, South America and Africa that have produced a large body of work focused primarily on social interaction with public space. Using existing social structures and local customs as a starting point, Smets presents an alternative vision on our habitat. More than a physical space, he understands our habitat as a mental space.

Melle Smets studied OK5/ Art and Public Space at ArtEz Academy in Arnhem. After his study Smets became the co-founder of art collective G.A.N.G. As cultural project developers they operated through interventions in public space, and the travel agency P-reizen (P-travel). P-reizen organized expeditions to the parallel world of highways, airports and ports.

In 2005 Smets established his independent practice in Rotterdam and in 2008 set up the Aardschap foundation. Aardschap is a collective of action researchers that uses methods from art and academics to develop communities-of-practice for challenging places, and pieces together what makes them function. Smets has been a guest lecturer at different universities in the Netherlands and during the period 2014-2016 he was the Director of the temporary Master ‘System D Academy’ at the Sandberg Institute in Amsterdam.

From 1996 to 2007, Kris De Decker was reporting on cutting-edge science and technology as a freelance journalist for newspapers and magazines in Belgium. In 2007, he moved to Spain and started Low-tech Magazine, a popular international blog that focuses on the potential of past and often forgotten knowledge and technologies when it comes to designing a sustainable society.

On the one hand, De Decker shows why high-tech solutions only make things worse. On the other hand, he researches and documents visionary low-tech solutions that arise when old technology is combined with new knowledge and materials, or when old concepts and traditional knowledge are applied to modern technology. He also looks for inspiration in the developing world, where resource constraints often lead to inventive solutions.

Since 2016, De Decker collaborates with the Demand Centre at Lancaster University (UK), which researches the social dynamics of our ever increasing demand for energy. In 2017, he started the Human Power Plant, an art project in collaboration with Melle Smets, which combines social and technological research to find out what sustainability actually means. Central to De Decker’s work is a broad historical context – a subject can only be understood if its complete history is taken into account.

Johan Boekholt develops innovative concepts to accelerate the energy transition. In a multi-stakeholder playing field with complex social issues, he realizes groundbreaking concepts for CO2 reduction. In the start-up phase he knows how to bridge between customer needs and organizational design.
Successful projects within the theme of energy saving are Buurkracht and De VvE Zonnecoach, both enabling individuals and groups to take steps towards a more sustainable world. At present, Johan focuses on new concepts for electric charging and sustainable area development.

In 2003 Johan started his career at one of the largest energy companies in the Netherlands. In 2005 he became an independent entrepreneur with a focus on organizational issues within the energy sector. Where in the first years projects focused on internal process design and improvement, a major turnaround was made in 2012, towards designing and building organizations upon customer needs.
His most painful moment in his carrier? The moment he realized that he had been ‘talking about the customer’ for years, but never ‘talked to a customer’! Nowadays in-depth understanding of the customer/user needs is an essential part of all his projects. Value for users increases by working iteratively and incrementally, in interaction with the user and other chain partners. And the proof of the pudding is in designing and building an excellent organization of people, processes, systems and partnerships to succeed.


de Heus