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Sustainable Energy and Climate Protection

Background and motivation

"The energy system currently in use is not a sustainable one." That is one of the key conclusions arrived at in a report by the Enquete Commission on Sustainable Energy Supply set up by the federal parliament of Germany. This assessment is based chiefly on the circumstances that the form which energy supply and utilisation presently take negates environmental costs, overexploits scarce resources and does not take risk factors sufficiently into account. Another issue of contention is that large sections of the world's population have insufficient access to the energy services required to support needed economic and social development. By the same token, the energy system in place is one of the central causes of civilisation-induced climate change and its severe global effects.

How can this development be changed for the better? What kind of innovations, government policies, societal prerequisites will improvement necessitate? These are core questions, the possible answers to which are the subject of examination by IÖW's "Sustainable Energy and Climate Protection" Research Area.

Focus on Renewable Energies

One of the focuses of the work being done in this area is on Renewable Energies, including solar energy (i.e. the generation of solar power using photovoltaic systems and of hot water and room heating using solar-thermal collectors), wind power and hydropower, stored solar energy in the form of biomass, but also various forms of geothermal energy or tidal energy. Renewable Energies are environment-friendly, sustainable forms of energy supply for the future, offering viable options for the utilisation of power and heat, but also for alternative fuels and the new conversion technologies and services they entail. None of these technologies, however, is in a position to immediately replace the present-day system. The future lies in an intelligent interplay, or mix, of renewable sources. And this strategy will need to be supplemented by coinciding strategies on the reduction of consumption levels through increased efficiency, for example, or cuts in usage.

Research and policy consulting

These aims ultimately lead us to an array of research issues and the need for political consultation. The Sustainable Energy and Climate Protection Research Area examines the different options for sustainable future energy systems, the factors of success for and the criteria for a socio-ecological transformation of the energy system and its subsystems. This involves looking into the relevant technologies, services and systems from ecological and economic perspectives as well as examining the prerequisites for successful development and diffusion. In addition, this work involves exploring the innovations necessary now and in future and analysing and developing suitable framework conditions and tools. Last but not least, it involves reviewing the changes and demands generated on an international level (by the European Union, for instance, or by international negotiations on climate) and the impact they have on national policy-making and (energy-relevant) economic activity.

In its research and analyses, the Sustainable Energy and Climate Protection Research Area uses classic methods applied in the fields of economic and political science. Research into environmental relevance, for example, uses eco-inventorying methods, external cost strategies and ecological-cum-economic evaluations. In the case of issues concerning social-science aspects, it uses methods applied in empirical social research. This Research Area is presently also involved in developing methods relevant to socio-ecological research, in addition to which consulting is provided to numerous political and civic players and moderation support given with regard to the current processes involved in connection with the entire spectrum of relevant themes.

Content focus

The Sustainable Energy and Climate Protection Research Area has for several years now been producing expertises and surveys which are highly practice-relevant and politically applicable in terms of the aforesaid issues. The following are keynote themes of focus:

Sustainable energy policy
Development and assessment of (new) political instruments
Evaluation/monitoring of existing instruments
Consulting for political institutions

Climate policy and climate change
International climate policy and its effects in a domestic context
Climate change and Renewable Energies

Transformation of the energy sector
Conditions of transformation (technology aspects, framework conditions, governance structures)
Socio-ecological implications and consequences (wildlife protection, acceptance, societal prerequisites, etc.)

Sustainable energy innovations
Markets, diffusion, ecological and economic evaluation of sustainable energy innovations from a supply and from a demand perspective

Research into Renewable Energies assumes a role of key significance within the aforesaid theme areas. The Research Area disposes over wide-ranging competencies in both individual areas of technology relevant to the field of renewable energy and in cross-disciplinary issues concerning political instruments, international developments or issues of acceptance. It is important to refer, in this context, to the projects headed by IOeW on evaluation of the law on renewable energy (Renewable Energy Bill). These projects examined market and cost developments for all relevant technologies and formulated recommendations on the further development of the instrument.



Dr. Bernd Hirschl

Head of the research field Sustainable Energy and Climate Protection
Phone: +49 30-884 594-0

Dr. Julika Weiß

Head of the research field Sustainable Energy and Climate Protection
Telefon: +49 30-884 594-0