Trialog series in cooperation with the academies' project "Energy Systems of the Future I“ | January 2015 - February 2016

A total of three Trialogs have been carried out by the HUMBOLDT-VIADRINA Governance Platform throughout the course of the first project period. The topics discussed in cooperation with the working groups of the project “Energy Systems of the Future” (ESYS) were “Energy transition = (de)central?”; “Raw materials in the energy transition – avoid new dependencies through recycling” and “Nudging in the energy sector – nudge the energy transition forward”.

The Trialog-series has been funded by the Federal Ministry of Education and Research and was carried out in cooperation with the academies’ project “Energy Systems of the Future”. The Trialogs served as Sounding Boards for the interdisciplinary working groups of the ESYS-Project.

About the academy project „Energy Systems of the Future“

The project Energy Systems of the Future (ESYS) is carried out by acatech – National Academy of Science and Engineering, the National Academy of Sciences Leopoldina and the Union of the German Academies of Sciences and Humanities. The project brings together more than 50 renowned scholars from numerous disciplines, with varying perspectives on the energy system. As a means to achieve the energy transition in a secure, affordable and sustainable manner, the experts involved in the project develop scientifically sound policy options and identify new areas for research.

These policy options provide a foundation for the broad societal discourse conducted by the “Research Forum Energiewende”. This panel assembles stakeholders in the energy transition.

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[+] The kick-off Trialog: Nudging in the energy sector – nudge the energy transition forward | May 5, 2015

The first Trialog took place on May 5, 2015 in Berlin and deals with the current working topic of the ESYS working group “society”. The Trialog focused on the question to what extend nudging can support the successful implementation of the energy transition.

So far the preferred policy options are regulations, financial incentives and bans. In contrast to that, nudging adds a “soft” approach to the policy tool box. “Soft” nudges can encourage citizens to a certain behavior without limiting their freedom of choice. The US and the British government are already using this approach as a political instrument. One example is the electricity conservation nudge of providing feedback to households on own and peers’ home electricity usage in a home electricity report.

Together with our participants from the political sphere, the business sector and organized civil society, including academia and media we want to discuss what options and solutions nudges offer to effectively support the energy transition process. Further questions were: What are the criteria for a good choice architecture? Which political framework do we need if nudging is to be applied as a common policy tool?

You can find the Trialog report (in German) here.

[+] 2nd Trialog: Raw materials in the energy transition – avoid new dependencies through recycling | October 9, 2015

The second event as part of the Sounding Boards for ESYS took place on October 9, 2015. In cooperation with the ESYS working group “Resources” the Trialog focused on the question of coherent policies and strategies for the extraction of raw materials, efficient use of raw materials and the recycling of raw materials in a transformed and sustainable energy system.

In fact, the dependency on fossil energy resources has decreased through the expansion of renewable energies, but the demand for mineral raw materials is on the rise. Platinum, cobalt, gallium, rare earths and many other “technology metals” are essential for wind turbines, solar panels, storage batteries or energy-saving lighting systems. Copper is needed to build power lines.

Aspects of global interdependence as well as social and environmental standards in the commodities sector on the one hand, and questions of successful recycling strategies on the other are connected with these developments.

The Trialog discussed with participants from politics, business, organized civil society and academia and media the importance of raw materials and their recycling in the context of the energy transition. It seeked to answer questions about political, social and environmental challenges as well as shed light on necessary framework conditions such as for example a European strategy on raw materials.

You can find the Trialog report (in German) here.

[+] 3rd Trialog: Energy transition = (de)central?” | December 4, 2015

The promotion of renewable energies has lead to an enormous increase in the number of generation plants. Part of that electricity is consumed locally, while the other part is fed into the centrally managed grid. The Trialog “Energy transition = (de)central?” focused on the interaction of decentral and central elements in the energy system. Aim of the Trialog series is to feed societal knowledge into the scientific work of ESYS through an intensive exchange of views between different stakeholder groups.

The discussion in the Trialog allowed for the clarification of several rather vague terms and definitions. Renewable does not necessarily mean decentral: A geographically focused installation of large wind power plants, such as offshore, is an equally centralized solution as the construction of a large conventional power plant.  Furthermore, a more distributed development of renewables does not automatically lead to more citizens’ participation.

There was general agreement that contrasting the two terms central and decentral is not fruitful for the discussion. Instead the implications of certain decisions on the plurality of actors in the energy system, the ownership structure or the demand for grid expansion should be analyzed. As expected, the different stakeholders put varying emphasis on the plurality of actors for a successful transition of the energy system.

During the workshops in the afternoon important aspects for further research on central and decentral elements of the energy system were pointed out. Amongst others, the relevance and criteria for scenarios were discussed and resources for strong civil engagement were identified.

You can find the Trialog report (in German) here.