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.

Research Groups

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.

News

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.

read more

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.

read more

Blog Posts

Structural change and sustainability must go hand in hand

With the Structural Adjustment Act, the German government intends to provide 40 billion euros of federal funding for the coal-mining areas of Germany. In addition, an emergency fund of 260 million euros is earmarked for short-term projects. However, the effect of these funds will remain modest if the federal and state governments do not go further than previously planned in implementing the costly coal exit. They risk losing sight of three essential goals: enabling sustainability, strengthening regional activity, and learning to shape transformation.

read more

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.

read more