Is the current energy crisis putting the brakes on climate action? Undaunted by the growing financial burden, support for the energy transition remains strong in Germany. Despite the spectre of skyrocketing energy prices, a broad section of the public wants to see the government double down on its efforts to achieve climate neutrality. This is the conclusion of the annual “Social Sustainability Barometer 2022”.
How can courses at vocational schools encourage their students to work for climate mitigation despite the impeding economic change? Based on workshops with trainees in the German coal-mining region of Lusatia, a team from the Institute for Advanced Sustainability Studies (IASS) offers some guidelines on how to include civics and education for sustainable development in lesson plans.
Many developing countries have made their nationally determined climate contributions submitted under the Paris Agreement conditional on receiving climate finance, technology transfer, and capacity building support. However, developed countries have so far failed to deliver tech transfer to the extent promised. According to a new study, public-private partnerships and other energy initiatives can only partially make up for this shortfall. While their role in supporting the growth of low-carbon energy systems in the Global South is proving crucial, their contribution in terms of technology transfer is insufficient.
Although structural transformations of the kind unfolding in Lusatia affect everyone, young people are rarely involved in decision-making processes. And yet everyone should have a say in shaping the future! The research project "Social Transformation and Policy Advice in Lusatia" at the Institute for Advanced Sustainability Studies (IASS) has developed a simulation game for six to 30 players in cooperation with game developers "Playing History". The game, which is suitable for younger audiences, was funded by the Federal Ministry of Education and Research (BMBF).
Sustainability policy in Germany currently falls short of what is needed, despite ambitious rhetoric. In a study, IASS researchers show that the established way of mediating interests between politics, industry and trade unions stands in the way of a more ambitious agenda. For a successful transition, policymakers must remould the relationship between capitalism, democracy, and sustainability.
Does a strong renewable energy (RE) industry lead to more ambitious renewable energy policies? Researchers at the Institute for Advanced Sustainability Studies (IASS) conclude: Yes, countries with clean energy industries increase ambition in the following years. So governments should address the distribution of risks and benefits of the energy transition in their policy design as local value creation can be a key component to promoting more ambitious target policies in line with the Paris Agreement's 1.5°C goal.
One of the new IASS Fellows this year is Natalie Koch. She is a professor in the Department of Geography and Environment at Syracuse University's Maxwell School of Citizenship and Public Affairs. Koch is currently researching the geopolitics of sustainability and "post-oil" futures in the Arabian Peninsula. In this interview, she discusses her research project and the extent to which the war in Ukraine may be accelerating Europe's transformation to a renewable energy supply.
Metals such as cobalt and lithium play a vital role in the energy transition and are used in the manufacturing of solar panels, wind turbines, and electric vehicles. However, the mining of these raw materials is environmentally harmful, working conditions are often hazardous, and local communities are frequently excluded from the planning and operation of mines. In a new article, an international research team led by IASS Scientific Director Ortwin Renn describes how current mining practices could be improved and the sourcing and management of metals better aligned with the goals of sustainable development.
The cement industry is responsible for about seven per cent of global greenhouse gas emissions. To encourage the decarbonisation of this industry, policymakers and the industry must find ways to incentivise reductions. A study from the Heriot-Watt University and the Institute for Advanced Sustainability Studies (IASS) gives us a first look at how CO2 mineralisation can reduce emissions from cement production by up to 33 per cent at no additional cost – under the right conditions.
As a major contributor to climate change, the cement sector must significantly reduce its CO2 emissions. A promising technology to do this is CO2 mineralisation, which binds greenhouse gases (GHG) to minerals. But giving this technology the push it needs will require the support of important stakeholders. IASS researchers have examined the priorities they have in developing CO2 mineralisation.
How will industrial value chains transform as decarbonisation gains momentum? Together with the IGBCE’s Foundation for Labour and Environment and the Institute for Advanced Sustainability Studies (IASS), the German Energy Agency (dena) has published a report examining the interdependencies affected by this transformation – a topic that will receive more attention from policymakers in the future.
Green hydrogen is set to make an important contribution to decarbonising industry, aviation and heavy transport. An IASS Discussion Paper presents a monitoring framework to systematically compile the most important trends and developments in the global hydrogen economy. Monitoring based on this framework could help to continuously review measures taken in the context of German and European hydrogen policy.
Solar power is booming across the globe, and public auctions have become the dominant policy tool for deployment. But a lack of solar-specific experience and capacity in newly adopting countries can result in technical failures and lower solar plant performance. International quality standards used as technical requirements in the design of public auctions could offer a solution. An IASS Policy Brief outlines the potential benefits and challenges.
Climate action, environmentally-friendly mobility systems and the decarbonisation of the economy are important elements of sustainable development. At its fourth meeting, held on 24 January 2022, the Sustainability Advisory Council of the State of Brandenburg discussed these topics with representatives from the Youth Forum for Sustainability (Jugendforum Nachhaltigkeit).
In Glasgow, Germany pledged 700 million euros to support South Africa’s efforts to phase out coal-fired power. But to secure South Africa's coal phase-out without economic and socioeconomic losses, a regional and national plan must provide for a Just Transition. The COBENEFITS team at the Institute for Advanced Sustainability Research (IASS) has presented an analysis on decarbonisation that makes data-based recommendations for action in South Africa's coal mining hub, Mpumalanga.
The energy transition could become an opportunity or a geopolitical threat for a country. But what factors does the outcome depend on? This issue has recently been studied by several research teams. Prof. Andreas Goldthau reviews these efforts in the article “The Tricky Geoeconomics of Going Low Carbon”. He argues that structural factors and market power will decide which countries end up winners and which losers in decarbonising their economies.
Germany’s coal exit is associated with widespread and far-reaching structural change in the mining region of Lusatia. Decisions made today will shape the region for decades to come. Enhancing Lusatia’s appeal for young people is one important goal within this broad transformation process. A new IASS Policy Brief offers recommendations on how policymakers can involve young people in shaping the future of Lusatia.
Renewable energy technologies can be true job motors: in 2020, the renewable energy sector employed at least 12 million people around the globe. Renewables can create sustainable jobs and improve the gender balance in the future energy sector. To harness the full socio-economic potential of renewables and to build the skills base needed for the energy transition, decisionmakers depend on reliable data, and trusted expert organisations to facilitate sound assessments.
Scientists at ETH Zurich have built a plant that can produce carbon-neutral liquid fuels from sunlight and air. The next goal will be to take this technology to industrial scale and achieve competitiveness. In a paper published in the scientific journal "Nature", researchers from Zurich and Potsdam describe how this novel solar reactor functions and outline a policy framework that would provide incentives to expand the production of "solar kerosene".
For the first time since it was founded in February, the Brandenburg Sustainability Advisory Board met in person on October 7 2021. The meeting at the IASS focused on the focal topic "Implementation of the energy transition in Brandenburg and CO2-free industrial processes”, as well as key considerations for improving the state’s sustainability strategy.
What does it feel like when science and society begin a dialogue with one another? This is the question taken up by the new podcast "hör mal : Lausitz" (English: listen in : lusatia), which follows the trail of transdisciplinary cooperation in the transformations taking place in the Eastern German lignite-mining region.
Scientists are constantly working to improve models for energy systems. Is this making the models more responsive to the actual needs of users from politics, business and civil society? IASS researchers have reached a mixed conclusion: While improvements are being made, modellers and users need to collaborate more closely to make full use of the potential of models for the energy transition.
The European Green Deal plays a crucial role in the EU’s efforts to achieve its ambitious climate policy goals. By implementing a carbon border adjustment mechanism that will impose levies on imports, the EU hopes to prevent companies from relocating their activities to countries with less ambitious climate policies. Which countries are exposed to greater economic risks as a result? What makes them particularly vulnerable? And how can the EU help them to protect the climate? IASS researchers have tackled these issues in a new study.
Ensuring the successful expansion of wind power will require the broad involvement of citizens. A new IASS Policy Brief offers recommendations for policymakers on how they can rally citizens behind the goals of the energy transition, support public participation at the municipal level, and improve the equity of participation opportunities.
Ambitious efforts to advance the clean-energy transition are not only good for the climate, but also pay off economically. According to a new study by the IASS, late decarbonizers are likely to face increasing risks to economic stability and industrial competitiveness. Furthermore, uneven decarbonization between countries could foster international tensions in coming years.
What does German public opinion say about the clean-energy transition? According to the findings of a recent representative survey, almost 80 percent of Germans see the decarbonization of the energy and transport sectors as a collective responsibility. More than half think the transformation is not occurring with sufficient speed. In addition, most view the transformation as too expensive.
The positive impacts of renewable energy development for people and the planet are widely acknowledged. However, the direct contribution of local renewable energy projects to local community well-being has received limited attention to date. A new study prepared by researchers at the Institute for Advanced Sustainability Studies (IASS) describes a social performance approach to investing in the energy sector that focuses on promoting the well-being of individuals and energy project host communities.
On 21 June 2021 Brandenburg’s Sustainability Advisory Board convened for its second meeting to discuss two thematic priorities and adopt its programme of work. The meeting was chaired by IASS Scientific Director Ortwin Renn. The head of the state chancellery, Minister Kathrin Schneider, also attended the meeting.
Many contemporary political conflicts are between those who would prioritize the needs of local or national communities and those with a more universal outlook. According to a new study by IASS researcher Silvia Weko, this split between "communitarian" and "cosmopolitan" Europeans is also evident in their attitudes towards European climate policy. Achieving climate neutrality without exacerbating societal divisions within and between countries will require the EU to strike a careful balance.
In EU research projects, the involvement of stakeholders, such as NGOs and businesses, plays an increasing role. During the pandemic, almost half of the planned activities have been cancelled. According to scientists, this could lead to problems in later project phases.
Ending our dependence on coal is essential for effective climate protection. Nevertheless, efforts to phase out coal trigger anxiety and resistance, particularly in mining regions. The governments of both Canada and Germany have involved various stakeholders to develop recommendations aimed at delivering just transitions and guiding structural change. In a new study, researchers at the Institute for Advanced Sustainability Studies (IASS) compare the stakeholder commissions convened by the two countries, drawing on expert interviews with their members, and examine how governments use commissions to legitimize their transition policies.
Societal transformations are often driven by the findings of science. The edited volume "Wissenschaft im Strukturwandel" shows how the interactions between science and society are changing research practice.
Can expert commissions develop solutions for controversial issues that will enjoy broad democratic support? A team of researchers from the Institute for Advanced Sustainability Studies (IASS) has analysed the work of Germany’s “Coal Exit Commission” using a set of new criteria. While the authors view positively the Commission’s success in reaching a compromise, they criticise its failure to deliver an outcome that promotes the common good, particularly with respect to the high cost of the coal exit and its unambitious contribution towards Germany’s climate goals, as well as the lack of public participation.
Germany will remain dependent on energy imports for the foreseeable future. This will include green hydrogen imports from regions with abundant solar and wind energy resources. Supported by researchers from the Institute for Advanced Sustainability Studies (IASS) in Potsdam, the HyPat project is conducting a global assessment of green hydrogen potentials, as called for in Germany's National Hydrogen Strategy (Nationale Wasserstoffstrategie - NWS).
Scientists have been using energy models to provide policy advice for years. As a new study shows, energy models influence policymaking around the energy transition. Similarly, policymakers influence the work of modellers. Greater transparency is needed to ensure that political considerations do not set the agenda for future research or determine its findings.
The Covid-19 Crisis is deepening the divide between energy transition frontrunners and laggards. In a new publication, researchers from the Institute for Advanced Sustainability Studies (IASS) in Potsdam present an overview of the global impact of the coronavirus pandemic on the energy sector. Their findings show that low- and middle-income countries need more support in their efforts to ditch fossil fuels.
The EU is discussing a “Carbon Border Adjustment Mechanism” that would impose levies on goods entering the EU based on their carbon content. The consequences for vulnerable developing countries must play a bigger role in this discussion. A new IASS Policy Brief makes three recommendations for the policy design.
In order to achieve the goals of the Paris Agreement, the world must reach net-zero carbon emissions by 2050. Carbon pricing – recently introduced in Germany for transportation and heating – is viewed by many governments and experts as the most important climate policy instrument. However, a new study shows that carbon pricing has been less effective as a driver of technological change than was previously anticipated.
The European Union recently adopted more ambitious climate goals for 2030 – their implementation is now the focus of debate. What do the Member States need to consider? A new study shows how important it is that governments coordinate policy reforms to support renewable electricity. Otherwise, many investors are likely to shift their focus to technologies that will continue to be subsidized or to countries where subsidies are still available. This outcome would increase the overall costs of expanding renewable electricity generation in Europe.
Renewable energies are not just good for the climate: A team of IASS researchers has looked into the advantages of an Indian energy transition for the domestic economy and society and for a green recovery post-Covid-19. Their findings have been published in a report that was presented to the Indian Ministry of New and Renewable Energy at a recent digital conference.
Micro-financing is an important tool to advance the growth and reach of modern energy systems in developing countries. With her start-up HEDERA Sustainable Solutions GmbH, engineer Natalia Realpe Carrillo has created a digital toolbox that enables micro-finance institutions to take stock of the sustainability impacts of their investments in clean energy systems. She will be joining the IASS as the new Klaus Töpfer Sustainability Fellow on 1 November 2020, where she will continue to develop and improve these tools.
The EU wants to cooperate more intensively with Africa in five key areas: the green transition and energy access, digital transformation, sustainable growth and employment, peace and governance, and migration and mobility. A new Policy Brief makes recommendations for the successful implementation of the EU-Africa Strategy proposed in March 2020.
Which political parties have the most ambitious climate and energy policies? The answer, according to a new study, is surprising. In Germany, France, Spain and Italy, parties across the political spectrum, from the Greens to the Liberals, show a similar level of ambition on this score. However, researchers have also identified a major impediment to the energy transition: none of the investigated parties has a convincing idea for a technology mix that would ensure grid stability despite weather-related fluctuations in wind and solar energy.
As part of its foreign policy, Germany hopes to promote energy transitions abroad through international energy partnerships. A new study by the Institute for Advanced Sustainability Studies (IASS) analyses these bilateral energy partnerships. Building on its reputation as an energy transition frontrunner, Germany is currently pursuing a soft power strategy aimed at winning over foreign countries to its policy approaches in the energy sector. According to this analysis, Germany's bilateral energy partnerships are the central policy instrument to this end.
The implementation of the UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) is indispensable for building a sustainable and just future. For that reason, technological innovations need to be assessed in terms of their compatibility with these goals. A new study shows that technologies for carbon capture and utilisation (CCU) can make a positive contribution to the energy transition.
The economic recession induced by Covid-19 is threatening the global supply chains on which low-carbon technologies depend. Prof. Andreas Goldthau talks about the resulting risk to the climate and appropriate policy responses.
The European Union aims to achieve climate neutrality by 2050 and is relying largely on renewable electricity to reach this goal. The implementation of this energy transition is the subject of heated debate: A continental-scale system that concentrates energy generation infrastructure in the most suitable locations would provide the most afforable solution but many citizens favour smaller, more dispersed supply networks. A new study prepared by researchers in Potsdam and Zurich shows that the implementation of such systems would not incur significant additional costs.
Transitioning our energy supply from coal, oil and gas to wind and solar power is feasible. However, renewables require more land than conventional forms of energy generation. A new study explores the options to reduce the land requirements of a fully renewable energy supply in Europe and their possible impact on the cost of electricity.
If we are to achieve the objectives of the Paris Agreement and the European Green Deal, we must create a net-zero emissions energy system. A new set of energy modelling tools is needed to explore potential energy futures and opportunities to transform existing energy systems. Researchers from the Sustainable Energy Transition Laboratory (SENTINEL) project have launched an online survey to learn more about the requirements for energy models to support decision-making for the European energy transition. In a second survey, they are examining the impact of the coronavirus pandemic on the stakeholder engagement activities of energy research projects.
The coronavirus pandemic has triggered an economic recession with potentially stronger effects than the 2008 financial crisis. The recession has been accompanied by a global decline in energy demand. A new study by the Institute for Advanced Sustainability Studies (IASS) examines the impacts of the pandemic on the global energy sector, and considers whether recent political decisions are accelerating the transformation of energy systems or perpetuating reliance on fossil fuels. The study includes an analysis of the energy policies of Argentina, China, Germany, India, Israel and the USA.
Heating accounts for over 50 per cent of final energy consumption. So reducing the emissions that result from heating buildings would make a huge difference to the climate. What strategies are being pursued to realise this potential in Germany and the UK? A study by researchers from the Institute for Advanced Sustainability Studies (IASS) finds that both countries could do a lot more to mitigate climate change in the heating sector.
Innovations in the area of carbon utilisation are the subject of growing interest. Novel technologies that capture CO2 emissions for industrial use can contribute to building a circular carbon economy and reduce consumption of fossil‐based raw materials. A recent study analyses the economic challenges and opportunities these technologies present to different industries.
Economies around the world have been severely affected by the Covid-19 pandemic. Substantial political efforts will be needed to stabilize employment markets and relieve pressure on health systems. Renewable energy generation can provide important stimuli for efforts to achieve these goals. A team of researchers with the COBENEFITS project at the IASS has analysed the potential benefits of decarbonizing the energy sector.
Energy policy debates tend to revolve around the technical feasibility of shifting from fossil to renewable energies. But energy policy measures will only be successfully anchored in society, and lifestyle changes sustained, if they are supported by broad swathes of the population. Edited by IASS Director Ortwin Renn and researchers from the Kopernikus project E-Navi, “The Role of Public Participation in Energy Transitions” offers theoretical insights as well as practical examples of how participation processes can succeed.
The use of bioenergy is increasing, despite the fact that the cultivation of biomass competes with food production and the conservation of natural ecosystems. A recent study suggests that the concept of ‘reflexive governance’ can support the development of more integrated biofuels policies by encouraging a shift from individual interests to an integrative approach.
High investment costs are a major impediment to the energetic refurbishment of residential buildings in Germany. Smart thermostats are a relatively inexpensive alternative. An IASS study shows that they are cost-effective for homes with a medium to low efficiency standard even when the realised energy savings are modest.
The coal phaseout in Lusatia has already been dragging on for three decades. In the face of delays to the promised structural transformation of the region, the out-migration of its young people, and local conflicts of interest, politicians now need to take action on two fronts. Financial investment alone will not be enough; the local population has to be involved in determining the direction its region is going to take. In a new publication IASS researchers analyse the obstacles to change and point to opportunities for democratically legitimised transformations.
How can the energy transition be organized in a globally just way? Will developing countries struggle to transition to clean energy because they lack the financial and technical means? A new Policy Brief by the Institute for Advanced Sustainability Studies (IASS) focuses on the risks of an uneven transition and makes concrete proposals to prevent such risks.
In the face of a changing climate and widespread environmental destruction it is difficult to envision a future in which healthy people inhabit a healthy planet. Strategies to safeguard planetary health were the subject of an IASS symposium on the occasion of the inaugural "Klaus Töpfer Sustainability Fellowship" on 6 November in Berlin.
In late September, the Kopernikus project ENavi presented their interactive simulation tools at the 28th meeting of the Committee on Sustainable Energy of the United Nations Economic Commission for Europe (UNECE) in Geneva. The tools can be used to demonstrate the impacts of measures to develop more sustainable transportation systems and expand renewable energy generation capacities.
Ministerial representatives and experts from around the world met in Berlin over two days at the Climate Opportunity 2019 Conference to learn from each other about the co-benefits of transitions towards more sustainable energy systems. The conference also provided a space for the development of strategies to leverage the co-benefits of individual climate protection measures in the course of political decision-making processes.
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.
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.
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.
Science has already given us a much better understanding of what we must do in order to leave our world intact for future generations. However, that understanding has had little impact on our collective behaviour. At the first Global Sustainability Strategy Forum in March 2019, 17 prominent scientists looked at how science can help bring about the changes we need to see. They have now published their findings in an IASS Discussion Paper.
About 80 per cent of current CO2 emissions are caused by the member states of the G20. So it’s clear that they have a particular responsibility to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and encourage a shift to renewable energy. The leaders of these countries now need to act on that responsibility at the G20 Summit in Osaka on 28 and 29 June.
Eighteen people were recently awarded the Order of Merit of the federal state of Baden-Württemberg by Governor Winfried Kretschmann. Professor Ortwin Renn, Scientific Director at the Institute for Advanced Sustainability Studies (IASS) was among them. Renn was honoured for his outstanding contribution to the transfer of scientific insights into politics, public administration and management and his unstinting commitment to a just and sustainable economic and social order.
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.
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.
The transition to a net-zero-emission economy will create new rivalries, winners and losers. What scenarios are possible? As part of the Geopolitics and Energy Transformation 2030 (GET 2030) project at the German Institute for International and Security Affairs (SWP), a team of international experts has looked into the developments that are conceivable in the international energy transition and their geopolitical implications. A team led by Professor Andreas Goldthau has commented on the results of this investigation in the journal “Nature”. In an interview with the IASS, Goldthau outlined the different possible scenarios.
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.
The second edition of the Social Sustainability Barometer for the German Energiewende offers insights into public opinion on this important issue. Following a presentation by social scientist and author Daniela Setton of the Institute for Advanced Sustainability Studies (IASS), a panel of experts highlighted some of the key findings.
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”.
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.
Germany and Israel are pursuing ambitious goals in the expansion of renewable energies and the development of innovative technologies. A new fellowship programme aims to foster a lively exchange of ideas among professionals in both countries.
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.
Democracy, science, and the rule of law are increasingly coming under pressure. How can we defend them? How can we harness new technologies and use our knowledge, ingenuity and wealth to achieve the goal of sustainable development: a good life for all? To mark the eightieth birthday of former Minister of the Environment and IASS Founding Director Klaus Töpfer, the Federal Ministry of Education and Research and the IASS held a symposium titled “Friends of the Open Society” on 21 November 2018.
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.
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.
A small footprint, more capacity and no losses - these are the main advantages of superconducting links for electricity transmission compared to conventional solutions. But how far is this new technology from deployment? Experts from the energy sector discussed the hurdles and chances at the final conference of the EU project Best Paths in Brussels.
Together with transmission system operators, partners from industry and science presented the results of ground-breaking research on a superconducting cable system at an international workshop on 5 July in La Spezia, Italy.
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.
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.
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.
What do citizens in France and Germany see as the key criteria for a fair energy transition? The Heinrich Böll Foundation France and the IASS presented two studies to 50 stakeholders from the policy community, business, science and civil society at an event in Brussels.
To transport electricity effectively, a superconductor has to be inside an extremely well-insulated tube with an interior temperature of -200°C. Researchers at the IASS, the ESPCI engineering college in Paris, and French cable manufacturer Nexans have now developed a novel form of insulation that is compatible with the low temperatures and the high operating voltage of 320 kilovolts.
The Governor of Brandenburg and members of the state government came to the IASS on 12 December to discuss energy policy and climate protection. Together with the directors of the IASS and the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research (PIK), they explored the idea of a Future Commission to ensure that Brandenburg’s energy transition is socially responsible and economically sustainable.
Digitalisation and globalisation are fundamentally changing the working world. International experts discussed the consequences at the “Thinking Space on the Future of Gainful Employment” held at the IASS on 30 November and 1 December.
With Carbon Capture and Utilisation (CCU) technologies, carbon dioxide can be converted into products such as building materials, chemicals, and fuels. A new study investigates perceptions of carbon utilisation technologies in the UK and Germany.
As governments across the world decarbonize their economies, the shift toward clean energy is highlighting new geopolitical tensions, supply chain vulnerabilities, and sustainability challenges associated with raw material extraction. With electrification as the main pathway to achieving decarbonization, one key technology—the battery—plays an outsize role in this shift. As the lithium-ion battery is currently the dominant technology for electric vehicles and stationary energy storage, exponential growth in critical mineral mining is required to meet demand. The International Energy Agency projects that the metals industry would need to build 50 new lithium mines, 60 nickel mines, and 17 cobalt mines by 2030 to meet global demand in line with national emissions-reduction pledges.
Since January, Germany has held the presidency of the Group of 7 (G7). In line with its own national priorities, the German government announced ambitious climate policy goals for its G7 presidency. They included accelerating the global coal phase-out and enhancing sectoral decarbonization. The G7 presidency also introduced the concept of a G7-based climate club, which represents an opportunity to intensify transatlantic climate and energy relations.
Russia’s invasion of Ukraine has intensified European policymakers’ interest in developing energy trade relations with Canada, as the former is seeking to identify reliable partners to swiftly diversify its fossil fuel imports.
The BMBF-funded accompanying research project "Social Transformation and Policy Advice in Lusatia" at the IASS is coming to an end after almost four years. In seven theses, we spotlight some of the findings from our research in this stormy field.
Abundant energy resources in many parts of Africa position the continent as a potential location for the production and export of climate-friendly hydrogen, either based on renewable electricity (green hydrogen) or natural gas in combination with carbon capture and storage technologies (blue hydrogen). Green hydrogen is produced via electrolysis by splitting water molecules into their component parts using renewable electricity, while blue hydrogen is produced by splitting natural gas into hydrogen and CO2 – after which the CO2 needs to be captured and stored.
Looking at global energy transition processes, we were keen to find out how countries of the Global South fare in their energy transitions and what factors influence these developments. To find out, we did a deep dive into stakeholder-based scenario building and conducted country case studies in four different global regions. What considerations are important when constructing scenarios and what was the role of stakeholders in the process?
The EU's pending Batteries Regulation is an ambitious framework to impose strict sustainability standards on the technology most important to electrification. To secure access to the lucrative EU market, global battery manufacturers will need to clean up their supply chains. US policymakers should take heed.
Confronted with the illegal war of aggression launched by Russia against Ukraine, the German government is keen to reduce Germany’s dependence on energy imports from Russia as quickly as possible. Various technical solutions, along with a diversification of energy import sources, have dominated this debate. The possibility that consumers could change their energy consumption patterns has hardly been considered so far. Yet studies in behavioural science suggest that the savings that could be achieved in the near term are significant and could help to strengthen energy security.
The G7 Summit in June offers an opportunity to provide tangible funding commitments to developing countries in the fight against climate change. If offers fall short, the world faces the risk that rising global inequality will derail international climate efforts, writes Dr Rainer Quitzow.
The new German Government stated that it wants to “dare more progress” (“Mehr Fortschritt wagen”). But what does it mean for green tech in Germany? In short, the government wants to accelerate climate and digital innovations in particular and provide more support for start-ups that offer ‘future technologies’, thus creating positive prospects for the green tech scene in Germany.
Nigeria has one of the lowest net electricity generation per capita rates in the world with an estimated national electrification rate of 55% and rural electrification rate of only 39%. To achieve universal access to electricity by 2030, Nigeria will need to connect between 500,000 to 800,000 households per year, especially focused on the rural areas.
How do you conduct a survey in a country you’ve never been to, where you don’t speak the language, and where household surveys are almost unheard of? Add to that, that the country has been on lockdown for a year and a half. Our answer: it’s all about the local partners!
The Covid-19 pandemic has imposed new challenges for the off-grid renewable energy sector and intensified existing ones. At the same time, it has also provided opportunities by highlighting the importance of electrification during crises and demonstrating the resilience of the sector.
A brightly coloured dome stands out among the lights of Kigali: The convention centre shines in the Rwandan national colours of blue, yellow and green. For the Rwandan ambassador to Germany, Igor Cesar, its image symbolises progress and the spirit behind it: "When you fly over Kigali at night, you can see how far our electrification efforts have come. Rwanda is characterised by its will to advance technologically, but we don't want to lose our origins, our identity in the process." The architecture of the convention centre represents the Rwandan path between preservation and new beginnings: a modern building whose shape is reminiscent of a traditional hut.
"Cooperation needs to be fair, transparent, accountable, and with excellent coordination in order to succeed." This was the bold message shared by the speakers in the opening session of the DAAD TU Berlin Alumni Online Seminar, Energy Transition on Africa, an event organized by TU Berlin in cooperation with the African Center of Excellence in Energy for Sustainable Development (ACE-ESD) and hosted by the TU Berlin Alumni Program, together with HEDERA Sustainable Solutions and with the support of the Institute for Advanced Sustainability Studies e.V.
Falling prices for renewables such as wind and solar are prompting policymakers at the national and European levels to consider phasing out support mechanisms. In a new scientific study, we show that discontinuing these instruments could have negative effects on the growth of these renewables. We arrived at this conclusion with the aid of a model in which we have integrated empirical investor preferences for the first time.
The Nigerian government and German energy company Siemens AG signed the Nigerian Electrification Roadmap (NER) partnership, also known as the Presidential Power Initiative (PPI) in 2019. The Roadmap contains technical and commercial proposals for financing, implementing, and executing projects to revive the Nigerian power sector and manage Nigeria’s future electricity requirements.
The urgent need to forge a path towards a climate-neutral future is finally being acknowledged in Germany’s courts, parliaments, and business sector. With its ruling earlier this year on the Climate Protection Act, the Federal Constitutional Court has issued a landmark decision on climate justice.
We are happy to announce the adoption of the institute’s inaugural focal topic. Throughout 2022 we will undertake collaborative research activities, hold public events, and publish research exploring themes related to matters of social justice.
Some German political parties and economists suggest ending the Renewable Energy Sources Act (EEG) surcharge in the power bill and instead financing renewables through the carbon tax. While the recent carbon pricing debate has focused on equity and political feasibility, it has neglected the elephant in the room: how would this change affect Germany’s ability to meet the 2030 climate goals? Here, we show that this refinancing would put climate goals at risk. Purely market-based renewables are not yet viable, the change could therefore slow down their already sluggish deployment. We thus argue that the EEG remains the quintessential instrument for German climate policy in the coming decade.
The Argentinean electricity sector remains concentrated in a few actors and is highly dependent on fossil fuels. We discuss in our blogpost the opportunities and barriers to supporting micro-scale renewable energy projects, which can directly benefit families and small businesses throughout the country.
What role do businesses and households play in smart and climate-neutral energy systems? Why does this pose challenges for energy modelling? Diana Süsser (IASS) and Andrzej Ceglarz (Renewables Grid Initiative) shed light on this in their article.
In late February 2021, Japanese trading company Mitsubishi Corporation decided to pull out of the Vinh Tan 3 coal-fired power plant project in Vietnam after facing considerable pressure from investors and activists over the company’s fossil fuel investments. This decision follows in the footsteps of HSBC’s withdrawal one year previously. Scheduled to go on-grid in 2024, the 2-gigawatt plant was expected to feature ultra-supercritical technology. This is the first time that Mitsubishi has pulled out of a coal development project. Work on Vinh Tan 3 will now continue under the aegis of China Southern Power Grid, which is also a major investor in the Vinh Tan 1 power plant. However, this outcome will not serve the interests of Vietnam in terms of job creation, air quality, and achieving climate targets.
On 20 January 2021, Joe Biden will be inaugurated as the 46th President of the USA. His election has boosted hopes for international efforts to protect the climate. But the recent riots in Washington DC underscore the fact that Biden will be taking the helm of a deeply divided nation – and climate protection promises to be a particularly thorny issue.
On the 7th of October, the European Parliament voted to adopt a more ambitious climate target to reduce EU emissions by 60% in 2030 compared to 1990, up from 40% currently. Policymaking and planning decisions towards this target are not straight forward, and it bears the question: How can we foster the societal and political acceptance needed to completely decarbonise our energy systems? While energy models can be used to study the pathways towards a decarbonised energy system, they largely neglect the social and political dimensions of the energy transition. To provide more realistic, relevant, and sustainable decision-advice, it’s time for energy modellers to integrate social concerns in their models.
Vietnam has recently incorporated a new section into its updated Nationally Determined Contribution (NDC) under the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) to emphasize the socio-economic co-benefits of climate action for the country.
The energy transition raises many questions about how to achieve and design net-zero emission energy systems. Energy models can support decision-makers by providing virtual laboratories in which different energy futures can be explored. But what are the requirements of different stakeholders on these energy models? Which challenges of the energy transition should they tackle? What questions should these models be able to answer? In order to identify needs and discuss the expectations placed on energy modelling in the framework of the project Sustainable Energy Transition Laboratory (SENTINEL), we conducted an online survey in summer and held an online expert workshop on the 1st of October.
Countries have responded differently to the large societal and economic impacts of the Covid-19 pandemic. While some view the crisis as a window of opportunity for new technologies and approaches to achieve climate neutrality, others will be tempted to reinforce their dependence on old technologies, leading to a carbon lock-in. Israel’s response as a start-up nation is promising, but further measures are needed to support a green transition.
In the European Commission’s “Coronavirus response”, President von der Leyen recently announced the aim of building “a modern, clean and healthy economy, which secures the livelihoods of the next generation”. But what does that mean for high emitting industrial sectors such as cement production? Are they part of “yesterday’s economy”, or will they successfully transition to more sustainable modes of production? Over half of all the materials that humans use on Earth are “cementitious” – including concrete, cement and other building materials – and it is difficult to imagine a life without cement.
Thanks to plummeting prices for electricity generated from renewables, the energy transition in the electricity sector has really taken off. It has also been at the forefront of recent public debates on the coal exit and minimum distance rules for wind turbines. But it is the heating sector that accounts for most of Germany’s energy consumption: According to the German Environment Agency, building heating alone represents around 32 per cent of the country’s total energy consumption. So the energy transition in the heating sector is a key arena for successful climate protection. The Building Energy Act (Gebäudeenergiegesetz) adopted by the German Bundestag on 18 June explicitly refers to the need for action in this sector.
The vital role of electrification in emergency response has become strikingly clear during the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic. Electricity is indispensable for the effective operation of healthcare facilities and the provision of health services, the timely diffusion of information, and undisrupted communications at a time when social isolation measures are in place. Access to electrification also makes it easier to carry out important household activities and follow essential hygiene recommendations. The pandemic has therefore served as a reminder of the vulnerability of the 860 million people who have no access to electricity, most of whom live in sub-Saharan Africa.
Argentina is among the countries hardest hit by the social and economic consequences of the current pandemic. In order to mitigate the impacts of the crisis, the government is responding with some immediate relief measures – tax deferrals, subsidies for low-income families, and special financial measures for different sectors including energy – as well as planning a quite ambitious recovery program. The decisions that are being taken today are likely to have a profound effect on the energy sector for decades to come. These decisions are influenced by visions and narratives associated with different sectors, with oil and gas being the “golden goose” and renewables the “ugly duckling”.
The corona pandemic caught our society off guard. That is one reason for the scale of the crisis. This makes it all the more important to learn from the current situation, not least in the area of climate and energy policy. In what follows, I discuss the lessons we can draw from the crisis in reflections clustered around the terms vulnerability, resilience and solidarity.
The corona crisis is not only threatening our health; it’s also shaking our economic systems to the core. A fall of global stock markets by as much as35 per centin the first quarter of this year means that a recession is imminent. The energy sector is also affected, with the price of oil plummetingand renewable energies also facing difficulties. Coronavirus infections, prolonged curfews, short-time work, and border closures are all affecting the supply chains of wind and solar energy technologies. Investment has all but dried up. In this situation we can learn from the experience of tackling previous economic crises and should opt for a “green” stimulus package in a three-step government programme of relief, recovery and reform. To accelerate and bolster the energy transition, all of the measures implemented in these three steps need to be scrutinised for their long-term viability.
The international health crisis has exposed a serious problem for energy systems – we’re not taking renewable energy technology seriously as a critical asset. Most solar panels today are made in China, and a shortage of key components means that Europe is now facing major delays in new installations. Wind power faces a double whammy – manufacturing is down, and countries may not have the personnel and parts locally to keep systems running. Countries should aim to build up national clean tech infrastructure in the same way that they ensure strategic reserves of fossil fuels.
The Europe-wide shutdown is reducing both energy consumption and carbon dioxide emissions. At first glance, this might seem like good news. But it has also caused CO2 certificates traded under the European Union Emissions Trading System to lose a third of their value since March. Economic activity is expected to be significantly depressed over the coming weeks and months and production capacities underused.
Hydrogen is dominating the debate on Germany’s energy transition at present. But it will require forward planning and considerable international coordination to get the market up and running. The European Union has a key role to play in this process.
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.
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.
In the upcoming days Japan will hosts its first ever G20 Summit. As the main contributers to global warming, the G20 states agreed 2009 on a phase out plan of fossil fuel subsidies. Ten years later the failure of the G20 to act on global warming is evident: around $63.9 billion was spent by G20 countries this year to develop coal industries in the global south.
The Group of Twenty (G20), a federation of the most important industrialised and emerging countries, is a crucial forum for initiating a clean-energy transition at the global level. Its member states account for nearly 80 per cent of the world's energy demand and more than 80 per cent of global CO2 emissions. The G20 brings together key players in international energy markets and international institutions along with major energy exporters. According to the International Renewable Energy Agency (IRENA), a concerted effort on the part of G20 nations could increase the global share of renewable energy sources to 44 percent by 2030.
But a successful move away from fossil fuels remains to be seen, not only in the US, where President Trump intends to withdraw from the Paris Agreement, but also among the other G20 members. Indeed, 82% of the primary energy in G20 states is still fossil-based. Since assuming the G20 presidency, in 2019, Japan has been pushing for renewed sustainable energy efforts in the G20.
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.
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.
Roll up your sleeves, seize every opportunity and take the future by the horns! Surely that is the best way to approach the transformation of the economy in the region of Lusatia? Played up by policymakers, this upbeat narrative is indeed vital to the success of what is a mammoth undertaking. But so too are the experiences of people and institutions across the region. As scientists working in the field of sustainable development, we must consider the broader social context of efforts to foster a less-resource intensive economy and way of life in Lusatia.
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.
The “Green Me Global Festival for Sustainability” is an annual event hosted at different locations around the world. Recent iterations of the festival have explored the elements earth, water and air across film screenings, discussions, and other initiatives. Researchers from the IASS have contributed to a number of these events over the years. The eleventh GreenMe Festival will take place in Berlin later this year under the motto “Action, Passion, Fire”. This prompted me to explore the themes of fire and sustainability in a dinner speech at a recent function to which sponsors and supporters of the festival were invited in early May. The following essay draws upon my comments there.
In the fight against climate change, it’s vital that developing and emerging nations also abandon their fossil fuels, which are a major source of greenhouse gas emissions. The co-benefits of renewable energy policies can become a decisive argument for structural change.
Germany is widely regarded as an international frontrunner in the global energy transition. Efforts to promote renewable energy have played a key role in lowering the cost of wind and solar power and contributed significantly to the growth of these technologies around the world.
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
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) .
The IASS has produced what is probably the most comprehensive overview on the results of recent renewable energy auctions yet. The study, which is soon to be published in English (it’s available here in German), thus fills a crucial gap. Policymakers will want to know the findings so they can improve policy design – and the study sheds light on some surprising gaps.
Germany’s energy transition, its Energiewende, is the backdrop for Juli Zeh’s novel Unterleuten. The title has multiple meanings. First, Unterleuten is the name of a small rural town where citizens learn one day that a wind farm is to be built in their midst.