Headline: Energy

The decarbonisation of the energy system is among the most important challenges of the twenty-first century. The energy sector accounts for approximately two thirds of global CO2 emissions. Hence, the development of a low-carbon energy supply based on renewable sources represents an essential entry-point in the fight against climate change. The deployment of renewable energy is also linked to important co-benefits, including improvements in air and water quality. But the energy transition is more than the development of new infrastructures and technologies; it entails far-reaching changes in society and the economy. It changes natural landscapes, drives the development of new social practices and ways of life, reassigns responsibilities, reshapes governance and political alliances, and redistributes power. In Germany, the energy transition has fostered the spread of energy cooperatives and other innovative organisational models. As a frontrunner in the transformation of its electricity system, Germany represents an important learning ground in the search for sustainable models of energy production and consumption.

The IASS investigates the complex change processes that underpin the energy transition across multiple research projects and develops solutions to foster sustainable outcomes. This research is underpinned by an approach focussing on the interdependencies and interactions between innovative technologies, new business models and organisational structures, evolutions in governance, and emerging lifestyles and practices of adaptation. The study of the social dimension of the energy transition and the integrated assessment of various socio-technical options for the development of a low-carbon energy system form a particular focus of this research. Research activities at the IASS also explore the international dimension of the energy transition and the role of Germany as a potential driver of a global energy transition. Our researchers monitor and assess key processes, including the efforts of G20 states to transform the global energy system, and study developments in major emerging economies.

Projects

Investigating the Systemic Impacts of the Global Energy Transition (ISIGET)

The international energy transition is already delivering numerous benefits, but it is also creating new inequalities. The risks posed by this transformation will impact especially on developing countries, which lack access to technologies and capital. What, then, can be done to ensure that these countries can also make the transition to a low-carbon economy? This is the focus of a new project that will develop recommendations for equitable forms of governance to reconcile conflicting policy goals.

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Social Transformation and Policy Advice in Lusatia

How is life in Lusatia set to change with the end of its coal-mining industry? What opportunities for sustainable social and economic dynamics does this present? And what can be done to ensure that the transformation of the region is democratic and fair? This project investigates processes of change in Lusatia and offers support and guidance to political and civil society actors in this context.

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Promoting Acceptance of Renewable Energies

For a successful energy transition, it is vital that the general population supports the expansion of renewable energies. This project asks whether a more environmentally friendly expansion could lead to greater acceptance of renewable energies.

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CO2 Plus - Broadening the Raw Material Base through the Utilisation of CO2

Options for putting CO2 to good use - for example in the chemical industry and in fuel production or energy storage systems - are currently being investigated across the globe. This project examines the factors that influence the diffusion and acceptance of carbon capture and utilisation (CCU) technologies and develops information and dialogue formats that support a sustainable and socially responsible implementation process.

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CO2Min - Mineral Sequestration of CO2

The natural minerals olivine and basalt are able to bind CO2 over their entire life cycle. However, under natural conditions it can take decades for the minerals to become saturated with the greenhouse gas. How could we harness technology to accelerate the absorption process, thereby contributing to climate protection? What are the potentials and risks of this method for society?

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COBENEFITS

Mobilising the Multiple Opportunities of Renewable Energies

Together with many of Germany's partner countries in the area of energy and climate policy, this project is carrying out country-specific analyses of the social and economic potentials of an ambitious climate protection programme based on renewable energies. Policy instruments are also being developed to realise these potentials.

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Pathways to Sustainable Energy

How can the heating sector in Germany be made more efficient and intelligent so that fewer fossil fuels are used? How can the energy transition be advanced in Germany and abroad? What measures are necessary to ensure the sustainability of the energy transition in its social dimension? This project addresses these three questions and investigates the prerequisites for a successful energy transition.

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Dossiers

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.

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.

News

Survey on incentive regulation

German Experience in Grid Integration Could Advance International Energy Transition

The distribution grid is the backbone of the energy transition. In Germany, over 1.5 million decentralised energy systems now feed their output into the electricity grids managed by around 900 distribution system operators. Their management costs have increased considerably as a result. How do German distribution system operators cope with the challenges they face, and what can other countries learn from them? IASS researchers explored these questions in a representative survey. Their findings have been published in the journal Renewable Energy.

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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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A Sustainable Energy Transition: New Guidelines for Multi-Criteria Evaluation

Transforming Germany’s large power grid into a sustainable energy system is both a challenge and an opportunity. To succeed in this task, we need criteria that define sustainability and reflect society’s values and priorities. A research team in the Kopernikus Project “Energy Transition Navigation System | ENavi” has now developed a set of criteria that integrates a diverse range of perspectives.

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Energy Transition with Public Participation: The Key to Successful Wind Farms

People are often apprehensive when they hear about plans to build a wind farm in their locality. They wonder how it will change the landscape. And whether the noise of the rotor blades will get on their nerves. People need information about the planned changes, but their direct involvement in the decision-making process is also important, because the expansion of wind energy depends on public acceptance. The Fachagentur Windenergie an Land and the IASS invited representatives from politics, the energy sector, and civil society to participate in the 3rd Workshop on Public Participation in the Development of Wind Farms on 15 and 16 January.

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Climate-friendly Methane Splitting Process

Zero-Emission Hydrogen Production from Natural Gas: German Gas Industry Awards Prize to Researchers in Karlsruhe and Potsdam for Groundbreaking Process.

A new technology developed in a joint research project by scientists at Karlsruhe Institute of Technology (KIT) and the Institute of Advanced Sustainability Studies (IASS) promises to provide energy from natural gas without producing harmful CO2 emissions. The process converts natural gas, which consists primarily of methane, into hydrogen and solid carbon. The researchers have been recognized for their work with the Innovation Award of the German Gas Industry.

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IASS Discussion Paper

Who is to Pay the Follow-Up Costs of Lignite-Mining? IASS Researcher Makes Policy Recommendations

The days of Germany’s lignite-mining industry are numbered, that much is clear. The Coal Commission appointed by the Federal Government now has the job of planning how exactly the phaseout will proceed. One issue that is often overlooked in this context is the question of how the rehabilitation of former coal-mining sites is to be financed. A new IASS Discussion Paper examines the risks inherent in the existing financing practice and makes concrete proposals for changes.

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German Government

Monitoring the Energiewende: Expert Commission Draws on Social Sustainability Barometer

On 27 June the Federal Cabinet gave its stamp of approval to the 6th Energiewende Monitoring Report submitted by Economic Affairs Minister Peter Altmaier (CDU). In a statement on the report, the independent expert commission charged with observing the monitoring process has for the first time compiled indicators on public acceptance, drawing on the Social Sustainability Barometer for the German Energiewende. The Barometer, which monitors the social dimensions of the energy transition, was prepared for the first time in 2017 by the IASS in the context of the dynamis partnership.

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Phasing Out Coal: IASS to Investigate Structural Transformation in Lusatia

The region of Lusatia in Eastern Germany is experiencing a structural transformation due to the dwindling significance of lignite. In a new research project, the IASS will investigate the changes taking place there. Karl Eugen Huthmacher from the Federal Ministry of Education and Research (BMBF) and IASS Scientific Director Patrizia Nanz presented the project at the Lusatia Dialogue on 25 June.

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Low Carbon Transition in Developing Countries: New Project Will Generate Proposals to Promote Energy Justice

The international energy transition is already delivering numerous benefits, but it is also creating new inequalities. The risks posed by this transformation will impact especially on developing countries, which lack access to technologies and capital. What, then, can be done to ensure that these countries too can make the transition to a low-carbon economy? This question is the focus of a new project that will study the systemic impacts of the global energy transition.

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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. They often emerge within the context of resistance against dominant practices such as the exploitation of natural resources or ideological concepts like of “development”. Practical experiments allow us to sketch out a more sustainable way of life and articulate demands for change within the existing system that would enable more people to embrace such lifestyle changes. The contexts, approaches, and methods employed by activists differ radically from one experiment to the next.

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The geopolitics of renewables. A new but messy energy world

Exhibiting the fastest growth among all fuels in the electricity sector, renewables are about to fundamentally change the energy system. This change is hoped to bring about important social and economic co-benefits, including sustainable and affordable energy for all, green job opportunities, and increased human health and wellbeing. But there may also be some fundamentally political implications of the low carbon shift. This is what a high level group of global leaders was tasked to look into, the result of which was published in their recent report titled A New World The Geopolitics of the Energy Transformation, published by IRENA, the international renewable energy agency.

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Building transatlantic common ground in combating global warming

As the world gathered in Bonn for its twenty-third Conference of the Parties (COP23), the newly published Emissions Gap Report 2017 by the United Nations Environment Program (UNEP) helped to underline the mantra of the conference: all countries need to raise their climate protection efforts quickly and substantially.

The report shows that even if fully implemented, each nation’s current nationally determined commitments (NDCs), laid out by each of the signatories to th

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Climate Policy under Donald Trump: What is to Become of America’s Energy Transition?

Clean energy was a key climate policy instrument during the Obama presidency. Obama also understood the promotion of renewable energy, energy efficiency, and comparatively low-emission natural gas as a driver of economic growth (Obama, 2017). Donald Trump has set out his energy policy in the America First Energy Plan – a strategy paper that stretches to about half an A4 page. It focuses on the promotion of fossil fuels with the aim of promoting economic growth and making the country energy independent (The White House, 2017a) .

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