Headline: How Global Climate Policy Can Learn from the Energy Transition

The Kopernikus projects present their research findings on the German Energiewende at the world’s largest academic conference in Austin.

ENavi Spokesperson Ortwin Renn (right) and ENavi Scientific Manager Stefan Stückrad (left) in front of the Berlin Efficiency House Plus of the Federal Environment Ministry.
ENavi Spokesperson Ortwin Renn (right) and ENavi Scientific Manager Stefan Stückrad (left) in front of the Berlin Efficiency House Plus of the Federal Environment Ministry.
IASS/Rolf Schulten

Germany’s Energiewende seeks to transform the country’s largely fossil-based energy system into one based on renewable energy sources and approaching carbon neutrality. Researchers from the Kopernikus projects “Energy Transition Navigation System | ENavi” and “Synchronized and energy adaptive production technology for flexible alignment of industrial processes towards a fluctuating energy supply | SynErgie” will describe how such a broad societal transformation of the energy system can succeed at the world’s largest academic conference, the annual meeting of the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) on 17 February 2018 in Austin, Texas.

In three presentations, ENavi spokesperson Ortwin Renn, ENavi Deputy Scientific Manager Heiko Thomas – both from the Institute for Advanced Sustainability Studies (IASS) – and Stefan Seifermann, head of the SynErgie Coordination Office at the Technische Universität Darmstadt, will share their insights into the largest ever German research initiative on the energy transition, highlight lessons learned, and point to potential implications for the USA and global climate policy. In a subsequent commentary, Carlo Jaeger, IASS Fellow and Chairman of the Global Climate Forum in Berlin, will focus on the economic aspects of the energy transition.

Technological innovations from the perspective of the social sciences

“At first glance, technological changes and innovations may seem pertinent only to engineering and the natural sciences, but our experience, for example of resistance to the expansion of the energy grid, shows that research in this area needs to include sociological perspectives,” underlines Ortwin Renn, Scientific Director at the IASS. The Kopernikus project ENavi develops policy options for implementing the energy transition, which it represents as navigation routes that show both the desired effects and the undesired side effects of these options.

“When one looks at the current share of renewables in total energy consumption, it becomes clear that we’re only at the beginning of the energy transition. The currently available technologies with potential for expansion, i.e. wind turbines, photovoltaics, and solar thermal energy, only account for about 4.5 per cent of total energy consumption,” explains Heiko Thomas. To achieve the goals set out in the German government’s Climate Action Plan 2050, the industrial, transport, heating and electricity sectors must be linked up. Significant reductions in CO2 emissions are possible if existing oil- and gas-fired heating systems are successively replaced with sustainable heating systems, for example of the kind that run on solar energy.

New options for a cost-efficient and socially responsible energy transition

Examples from industry show how this could work in practice. “While measures like the adaptation and expansion of the power grid are often associated with high costs and low public acceptance, so-called demand-side management could make a cost-efficient and broadly accepted energy transition possible,” notes Stefan Seifermann. In demand-side management, industrial processes are flexibly adapted to and synchronised with an energy supply that fluctuates in accordance with the seasons and weather conditions.

The American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) is the world’s largest scientific association and the publisher of highly regarded academic journals (including Science). At the annual meeting of the AAAS, around 10,000 leading scientists, educators, policymakers and journalists from 60 countries come together to discuss the latest developments in science and technology.

The Federal Ministry of Education and Research (BMBF) is funding four Kopernikus Projects for the Energy Transition, which will give a decisive impetus to the transformation of the energy system. Three of these projects focus primarily on the technical aspects of storage systems (Power2X), new grid structures (Ensure), and the flexibilisation of industrial processes (SynErgie). The ENavi project is more concerned with system integration: It approaches the energy transition as a process of broad societal change and links scientific analyses to political and social requirements.

Further information is available at www.kopernikus-projekte.de


Saturday, 17 February 2018, 10–11.30 a.m.


Austin Convention Center Texas, USA


Three presentations followed by a discussion with the speakers and a guest commentator

The Transformation of the German Energy System

Heiko Thomas, Institute for Advanced Sustainability Studies, Potsdam, Germany

The Energy Transition as a Process of Social Transformation

Ortwin Renn, Institute for Advanced Sustainability Studies, Potsdam, Germany

Synchronising and Adapting Industrial Processes to a Fluctuating Energy Supply

Stefan Seifermann, Technische Universität Darmstadt, Germany

Guest commentator

Carlo Jaeger, Global Climate Forum, Berlin, Germany


Stefan Stückrad, Institute for Advanced Sustainability Studies, Potsdam, Germany

The complete conference programme can be found here: https://aaas.confex.com/aaas/2018/meetingapp.cgi/Session/17871