Headline: Energy systems and societal change

The decarbonisation of the energy system is among the greatest and most important challenges of the twenty-first century. With the energy sector accounting for roughly two thirds of global CO2 emissions, the development of a climate-friendly energy system based on renewables is vital to tackling climate change. This transformation has far-reaching economic and societal consequences, making it an important field of study for transformative research at the IASS. There is far more to the energy system than simply technical infrastructure: The energy transition fosters the emergence of innovative business models and forms of organisation, drives the development of new practices and ways of life, reassigns responsibilities, reshapes governance, and redistributes power. Six research groups at the IASS study change processes within the context of the energy transition and develop solutions to safeguard their sustainability in cooperation with societal stakeholders. The social, political and institutional dimensions of the energy transition and the multi-dimensional evaluation of socio-technical options for the development of a low-carbon economy form a particular focus of this research. In the Kopernikus Project Energy Transition Navigation System (Enavi) 80 partners from research and practice work together to analyse and evaluate transformation pathways for the energy system, with a particular focus on Germany. The research group Energy Transition Dynamics investigates policy instruments and institutional regimes for the complete decarbonisation of energy systems in Europe especially. The research group Pathways to Sustainable Energy studies the social sustainability of the energy transition as well as the transformation and potential of international governance and cooperation within the context of a global energy transition. This work is linked closely to the activities of the research groups Social and Economic Co-Benefits of Renewable Energy & Climate Action (COBENEFITS) and Systemic Implications of the Global Energy Transition. The former studies the complementary benefits of renewable generation in India, South Africa, Turkey and Vietnam, while the latter explores the potential risks to the countries of the Global South posed by a global energy transition. In the group CO2 Utilisation Strategies and Society researchers cooperate with European and international partners to study the potential benefits and risks associated with technologies for carbon capture and utilisation (CCU) and their societal implications.


IASS scientists explore the future of energy transport

Superconductivity Dossier

In the coming decades, the development of renewable energy sources (RES) such as wind and solar will play a major role in reducing our reliance on fossil fuels and making our energy system more sustainable. But the places where RES are available or would be most efficient are often located far away from the densely populated and industrial areas where the energy is needed: on the open sea in the case of offshore wind and in sunnier climes in the case of solar. This means that the construction of new power lines needs to go hand in hand with RES development. In Germany for instance, expanding the electrical grid has become a crucial precondition for the success of the Energiewende.

New technologies use carbon dioxide emissions

CO₂: From Waste to Feedstock Dossier

Economic activities and consumer behaviour in developed countries are currently based mainly on the use of fossil-based raw materials, whose emissions are largely responsible for anthropogenic climate change. In efforts to reduce human effects on the climate, the avoidance of carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions is and remains the most important measure. But viewing the greenhouse gas CO2 as a source of carbon can also make sense. In recent years scientists have been investigating so-called Carbon Capture and Utilisation (CCU) technologies. The aim of these technologies is to re-cycle the CO2 contained in emissions as a feedstock for industrial processes.


Energy Transition

Kopernikus Project ENavi Presents Preliminary Findings on the Climate Benefits of Germany’s Coal Phaseout

Germany has committed to reducing its carbon emissions to 45 per cent of 1990 levels by 2030. There is a broad consensus that the decommissioning of the country’s coal-fired power plants is essential to achieving this goal. The shift to a more decentralised system of energy generation will, however, result in additional costs for society as a whole.

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ENavi Summer Academy Takes a Closer Look at the Requirements and Effects of the Digital Energy Transition

Digitisation can support the transition to a low-carbon energy system by facilitating the production, transportation and consumption of renewable energies. Digital technologies give consumers a role in determining when, where, and for what purpose energy is provided, how much energy can be saved, and what share of the energy mix renewables make up. From 13 to 17 May, early-career professionals from 16 different countries will meet with experts in Potsdam to discuss the challenges the transition to a sustainable energy system presents to politics, science, the private sector and civil society, and the role digitisation can play in the process.

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Blog Posts

Natural resource exploitation in Germany and South America: Activists share their experiences of resistance and transformation

Today, emerging visions of a better society are forged in practical experience and experimentation. The contexts, approaches, and methods employed by activists differ radically from one experiment to the next. As researchers with the IASS project Politicizing the Future, we were keen to facilitate exchange on the subject of societal visions among activists from very different contexts and to see what could be learnt from their experiences for the development of more sustainable societies.

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