Headline: 2018 Social Sustainability Barometer: Growing Dissatisfaction with Energiewende Implementation Process

A clear majority of Germans across all income brackets, age groups and educational backgrounds still supports the Energiewende. Indeed, since the publication of the first Social Sustainability Barometer in 2017, there has been a notable rise in the number of people who view the energy transition as a broad societal task to which they personally want to contribute. However, there is growing criticism of the implementation of the energy transition by the German Government: Three quarters of respondents describe the process as “expensive”, while over half view it as “chaotic” and “unfair”.

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In which direction is the mood among the population tending? IASS's Social Sustainability Barometer provides an empirically sound basis for acceptance of the energy system transformation. S. Zentek/ IASS

The population would also like to see faster progress in the area of climate protection, with greater emphasis placed on social justice. There is, however, a general unwillingness to pay more for climate protection, and a relative majority would like some form of financial relief to offset possible costs. People are also more reserved in their support for e-mobility and reluctant to invest in wind and PV systems for self-generation.
These are the main findings of the 2018 edition of the Social Sustainability Barometer for the German Energiewende, which was recently presented in Berlin by the dynamis partnership comprising the Institute for Advanced Sustainability Studies (IASS), the 100 prozent erneuerbar Stiftung, and the innogy Foundation for Energy and Society. The Barometer is based on a survey of the attitudes, experiences, and preferences of over 6,500 German citizens with regard to the Energiewende.

Commenting on the Barometer’s findings, IASS Managing Scientific Director Ortwin Renn said: “People in Germany want the Energiewende and they have a keen sense of what is required for an environmentally friendly and socially equitable energy system and sustainable climate protection. But nowadays, many associate the energy transition with an insufficiently coordinated and disorderly implementation process, and criticism of the energy policies pursued by Germany’s political parties has risen sharply in this context. Remarkably enough, for most people, the pace of the Energiewende is simply too slow. At the same time, there is a desire for solidarity, a consensus that those who are disadvantaged by the energy transition should be supported by the wider population.”

Daniela Setton, the author of the study and a Senior Research Associate at the IASS, commented: “Our findings show that people in Germany want climate protection and social justice in equal measure. Both aspects need to be better integrated in key areas of the Energiewende. This is a central task for the German Government. Almost half of the respondents believe that the expansion of onshore wind energy should not proceed over the heads of local populations. And the introduction of a CO2-pricing system must be accompanied by a convincing and transparent compensation mechanism if it is to be accepted by the broad majority. But politicians also have an obligation to provide people with practicable, attractive, and affordable alternatives to using fossil fuels in their everyday lives. Such alternatives are still lacking, for example in the areas of transport and heating.”

For the Director of 100 prozent erneuerbar Stiftung René Mono, the Barometer shows that: “We cannot carry on as usual with the Energiewende. People are calling for a fairer distribution of costs and a solution-oriented approach to trade-offs. But one aspect is particularly important: Those most affected by the Energiewende need to be able to feel that they are the beneficiaries rather than the losers of change.”

Stephan Muschick, Managing Director of the innogy Foundation for Energy and Society, said: “A decentralised Energiewende based on innovative technological solutions depends on people who are open to new roles. In this context, some of the Barometer’s findings should be understood as a wake-up call – we need to promote and build trust in unconventional applications, while also prioritising responsible use of data.”

Further Information: Soziales Nachhaltigkeitsbarometer der Energiewende 2018 (English version pending)