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.


Shale gas in Europe

Fracking Likely to Result in High Emissions

Natural gas releases fewer harmful air pollutants and greenhouse gases than other fossil fuels. That’s why it is often seen as a bridge technology to a low-carbon future. A new study by the Institute for Advanced Sustainability Studies (IASS) has estimated emissions from shale gas production through fracking in Germany and the UK. It shows that CO2-eq. emissions would exceed the estimated current emissions from conventional gas production in Germany.

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Blog Posts

U.S. and German Energy Policy at a Crossroads? The Transatlantic Partners and the Future of Energy Cooperation

The U.S. and Germany are moving in fundamentally different directions with their energy policies. Germany has embarked on its “Energiewende,” an energy strategy based on renewable energy and energy efficiency as well as the phase-out of fossil fuels and nuclear energy. It is an important building block in the country’s climate protection endeavors. The U.S. under the Trump administration has abandoned its national and international climate commitments. It is pursuing an “Energy Dominance” strategy that seeks to expand the production of U.S. coal, natural gas, and oil. This strategy marks a significant departure from the Obama administration, which pursued a climate action plan focused on fostering clean energy in the U.S. and abroad.

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Tough trade-offs for new international carbon market mechanisms

Several countries’ national determined contributions (NDCs) highlight climate finance as a precondition for the ambitious action needed to achieve development paths compatible with limiting global warming to 1.5°C in 2100. Many hopes have been pinned on new market mechanisms in this context, but the trade-offs demanded by carbon trading schemes continued to be hotly debated at the UNFCCC last week, not least due to their political and economic implications.

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