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Minister Kaspars Melnis Gets Acquainted with RTU Research and Development Plans in the Field of Energy and Climate

19th of February
Miķelis Dzikēvičs (left), senior scientist at the Institute of Environmental Protection and Heat Systems, Faculty of Natural Sciences and Technology, shows the Solar Energy Systems Laboratory to Kaspars Melnis, Minister for Climate and Energy. Photo: Gints Ivuškāns

The Minister for Climate and Energy Kaspars Melnis and his team visited Riga Technical University (RTU) to learn about the latest research in the field of energy, climate and environment and the university's ambitious plans, for example, to achieve climate neutrality in 2035 and to create a hydrogen research and innovation centre of excellence in Latvia in cooperation with the aviation company «Fokker Next Gen», Liepaja Municipality, Liepaja Economic Zone and other partners.

«We are your partners in the implementation of the Green Deal,» says RTU Rector Tālis Juhna when he meets K. Melnis. RTU scientists have competences in modelling environmental and climate policy instruments, in the development and analysis of climate neutrality technologies for different economic sectors, in research and development of solutions for the capture, transport, storage and use of carbon dioxide, in its biogeochemistry and biotechnology, in sustainable innovations for heating and cooling, in energy planning, in the sustainable development of renewable energy systems, etc. RTU scientists have also developed a world-renowned new type of decoupled electrolysis technology for safe and efficient hydrogen production, other long-term energy storage technologies, technologies for the development of electric car charging infrastructure, integration of digital technologies in the energy sector, research into advanced bio-oils and biodiesels without the use of food raw materials, etc.

A contract has also almost been signed for the implementation of the project «Decision Support System for Climate Resilience Targets» of the national research programme of the Ministry of Climate and Energy - scientists from the Environmental Protection and Heat Systems Institute (VASSI) of the Faculty of Natural Sciences and Technologies of RTU will develop climate policy modelling tools to analyse the effectiveness of the initiatives included in the National Energy and Climate Plan.

RTU's scientific excellence in the field of hydrogen is the basis for a collaboration between RTU and the Dutch company «Fokker Next Gen» to establish a Hydrogen Research and Innovation Centre of Excellence together with other partners in Latvia, which will provide a platform for collaboration in research, technology development and testing, introducing RTU's innovation promotion initiatives, says RTU Innovation Vice-Rector Liene Briede. The Dutch company plans to deliver the first hydrogen-powered passenger aircraft to customers by 2035, and Latvia has been selected for the project. The faster development of hydrogen technology would be closely linked to a number of critical infrastructure projects, such as the Kurzeme offshore wind farm, she adds.

She also presents other ambitious initiatives of scientific excellence and innovation - the intention to establish a microchip testing centre in Latvia and an innovative particle therapy centre in the Baltics for the successful treatment of oncological diseases, research and collaboration with industry. The initiative to set up such a centre has been put forward by the Baltic Group of the European Center for Nuclear Research (CERN). A national polar research programme would provide an opportunity to develop research and innovation in fields ranging from biology and geophysics to telecommunications, AI and even anthropology. The Arctic is experiencing climate change at a faster rate than other parts of the world and is therefore attracting a lot of research attention. However, no planning document currently sets out Latvia's direct activities in this region, says L. Briede.

RTU itself not only promotes research into energy and climate technologies, but also uses them to achieve its goal of becoming climate neutral by 2035. To achieve this goal, the energy efficiency of buildings is gradually being improved, the property portfolio is being optimised, buildings that are not needed for RTU's core functions are being disposed of, there is a shift towards more efficient lighting, greener mobility, waste reduction and sorting, green procurement, and there is interest in changing the energy sources used, focusing more on solar energy. RTU's achievements are already reflected in international rankings, for example, the «GreenMetric World University Rankings 2023», which rank RTU 45th in the world for green policy and sustainability, increasing its position by ten places. RTU is consistently the only Latvian and Baltic university to be ranked so highly, as no other university in the region has managed to rank among the 200 greenest universities in the world.

Juris Iljins, RTU's Administrative Director, emphasises that green transformation is increasingly being incorporated into the study process so that sustainability is not just a word for future engineers.

During his visit to RTU, K. Melnis also visits several laboratories. In the Water Research and Environmental Biotechnology Laboratory of the Faculty of Science and Technology, under the guidance of Professor Linda Mežule, he learns about both water purification and bioenergy technologies, as well as discusses the use of algae in wastewater treatment and biofuel production. Professor Anatolijs Borodiņecs of the Faculty of Civil Engineering and Mechanical Engineering, presenting the Climate Chamber, discusses the latest research on indoor air quality and ventilation, energy-efficient buildings for short-term living and ballistically safe buildings. Jānis Zaķis, Associate Professor at the Institute of Industrial Electronics and Electrical Engineering, Faculty of Computer Science, Information Technology and Energy, talks about power conversion technologies and demonstrates an electric tricycle built by RTU students and students from the RTU School of Engineering. The aim of the team of students led by Jānis Zaķis is to build a vehicle that uses energy as efficiently as possible and to compete in the world's leading student engineering competition. They have already competed successfully in Latvia and Germany. Vladimirs Kirsanovs, Associate Professor at VASSI, presents combustion processes in biomass heating systems and innovations to reduce harmful emissions at the Combustion Processes Research Laboratory, while lead researcher Miķelis Dzikēvičs talks to the Minister about the latest developments in solar energy and shows off the Solar Energy System laboratories.

RTU viesojas klimata un enerģētikas ministrs Kaspars Melnis ar komandu

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