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.

Dossiers

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.

Interactive map of Europe

Europe’s Future is Renewable

Europe has enough solar and wind resources to meet its electricity demand entirely from renewable sources. A new study by researchers at the Institute for Advanced Sustainability Studies (IASS) in Potsdam shows that many regions and municipalities could meet their electricity demand using electricity systems based exclusively on renewables. However, their development would exacerbate land use pressure around metropolitan areas and larger conurbations.

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Energy Transition

The Lessons of Failed Energy Policies

Even though electricity generated from solar and wind energy is becoming increasingly cost-competitive, the expansion of renewable energies continues to depend on policy support. When such support is lacking, setbacks to the energy transition can often result – as seen in the cases of the former pioneer countries Spain and the Czech Republic. What energy policy lessons can we learn from this? A study published in the journal Energy Policy makes recommendations for effective policy design.

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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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