Program Director

Auke Hoekstra

About me

I love to peer into the future and to invent stuff to make things better. My idea of the perfect holiday is sitting in a quiet place in nature with a view and a science fiction book. I live together with a wife and cat. No kids. We drive electric, usually eat vegan and live in a self-designed energy positive house in the country. I love the solitude of the country because being around people is fatiguing for me, but I also love to exchange ideas with people who care about this beautiful world we live in. I cannot comprehend that people are bored when there is so much to explore.

Personal Motivation

I like living with a purpose. In 2009 I took a sabbatical and since then my purpose in life is to accelerate the transition to renewable energy and mobility. Mainly because I think we should limit climate change and make our environment more pleasant. But also because it’s a complex puzzle that fascinates me and there’s so much undiscovered potential. That’s why I initiated Zenmo and NEON. The globe from my grandfather symbolizes what drives me: protecting life on earth, while avoiding suffering, and increasing happiness. All life in the universe might be concentrated in Earths biosphere: that thin surface layer of this rock we happen to live on. For better of for worse, humanity now has stewardship over the biosphere and I think that means we should burn less nature and switch to sustainable ways of getting energy and food. I also think it’s self-defeating that mobility is harming the places it takes us to. But I am hopeful because I think we are becoming aware of the problems and we already have the technology to solve them. For me, NEON is all about finding out how to apply that technology, in a way that avoids suffering and makes us happy. I also love to create jobs that avoid suffering and make people happy. So I’m looking forward to making NEON a joyous ‘family of researchers’ where everybody can find meaning, have fun and excel.

Now that we have secured the funding, my most important task as project director will be to bring out the best in the PhD students. A specific challenge will be to make them work as a cross-disciplinary team. I will also focus on outreach and valorisation to give NEON maximum positive impact for the consortium members and the societal challenges of climate change, sustainable energy and smart mobility. My research focus will be the integral model (link) that should bring everything together in a quantified way. This was the unique selling point of NEON and it already was my area of expertise before I wrote the NEON proposal.

Link to other neon research

The integral model¬†that I work on with Floor Alkemade and Maarten Steinbuch, needs input from all the other work packages to make it’s scenarios better. For example: the people working on solar, wind, electricity grids, batteries, electric vehicles and chargers must help us to set the right parameters in the model. This technical expertise is really important in order to have not only a sensible methodology but also sensible results. I think the human factors are even more important and often overlooked in energy and mobility models. So I would love to find out with Reint-Jan Renes what drives the humans who must buy and use the sustainable technologies we envision. I hope Saskia Lavrijsen will be able to tell us what regulation is needed and how current regulation sets boundaries for scenarios. In order for scenarios to work you also have to think about standardization: that can make or break markets and technical solutions and fortunately we have Rudi Bekkers to guide us on that. Finally we have to ask: what kind of future do we want? And I’m looking forward to working with Derk Loorbach and others on choosing scenarios that help to create a society that’s not only sustainable but also just and joyful.