Trialog Series in Cooperation With the Academies' Project "Energy Systems of the Future"
2015 - 2019

In cooperation with the academies’ project “Energy Systems of the Future” (ESYS) the HUMBOLDT VIADRINA Governance Platform carried out Trialogs for the working groups of the ESYS project.

Experts in the working groups developed interdisciplinary analyses and position papers for the implementation of a secure, affordable and sustainable energy transition. To include also positions and interests of societal stakeholders, the working groups of ESYS exchanged views with them in various dialog formats. One of these dialog formats were the Trialogs organized by the HUMBOLDT-VIADRINA Governance Platform.

The Trialogs facilitated an intense discussion based on substantiated arguments between the experts of the ESYS-working groups and stakeholders from the public sector, the business sector and organized civil society. By integrating societal and scientific knowledge a broad knowledge base can be established, which allows to identify potential conflicts between stakeholder groups, barriers to the discussion and the general societal sentiments on the topic. The results of the Trialog discussion had to be considered by the working group when compiling the final analyses and position papers.

In the first project phase three Trialogs dealing with specific topics of the ESYS project were carried out. For the second project phase until 2019 another eight Trialogs are scheduled. The project was funded by the Federal Ministry for Education and Research.

Energy Systems of the Future (ESYS) is an inititiave by:

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More information about the initiative here. 

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11th Trialog: Turning the Energy System Upside Down – Consequences for our Day-to-Day Lives in the Future | Feb 22, 2019

To limit global warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius, the energy supply must be radically transformed. There is no doubt that we need new technologies and effective laws to achieve this. But we rarely realize how deeply this transformation will affect our everyday lives. If we are to limit the further expansion of photovoltaic and wind power plants, we will have to drastically reduce energy use. Among other things, this may mean that driving and flying will no longer be possible to the same extent as they are today. But the necessary transformation also brings opportunities, for example by making cities more livable.

What changes are we likely to see if climate policy is implemented consistently? How can and must we transform our daily lives in order to integrate new technologies and use energy and resources more efficiently? At the Trialogue, stakeholders from politics & administration, business, organized civil society, science and media exchanged their views on these issues.

Follow this link for press release on the Trialogue (in German).

Please click here for report on the Trialogue (in German).

10th Trialog: Electricity Market 2.0. – Flexible, Secure, Efficient | Oct 23, 2018
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Hartmut Weyer (TU Clausthal) on a future electricity market design © acatech/Busch

Electricity produced by renewables is supposed to become the most important source of energy in the future. But the German market design needs to be adapted to further integrate renewables into the energy system and to reach the climate targets of 2030.  In the Trialog “Electricity market 2.0. – flexible, secure, efficient“  50 participants from the public sector, the business sector, organized civil society and academia discussed how to design a market that enables an energy supply that is climate friendly and reliable. The participants argued for an overall transformation of the system of levies and taxes and to introduce a common CO2-price for all energy sectors. But they also pointed out how difficult it is to achieve equal opportunities for all energy sources (level playing field). Additionally such a price signal alone would not be sufficient to push fossil fuels out of the market.

The Trialog took place on October 23, 2018 in Berlin. It was the 10th Trialog of the HUMBOLDT-VIADRINA Governance Platform in cooperation with the academies’ project “Energy Systems of the Future”.

Further information on the Trialog and on the project is available in the press release here. (In German only)

9th Trialog: (De)centralized! Finding the Right Balance for a Sustainable, Reliable and Affordable Energy System. | May 28, 2018
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The energy system is becoming more and more decentralized in many areas. In addition to the few hundred power plants that have supplied Germany earlier, many small producers have now emerged. Whether photovoltaic roof systems or wind turbines – the producers are mostly cooperatives or private individuals, so-called “prosumers”. Many see this change as a new opportunity for participation in the energy system; others point to the higher cost of a more decentralized energy system.

Experts from the academy project “Energy Systems of the Future (ESYS)” discussed together with stakeholders from politics and administration, business and organized civil society what our energy system should look like in 2050 and how further developments of the energy system in a decentralized or centralized direction can be evaluated – with regard to total costs, acceptance or jobs.

The ninth Trialog on the energy transition in cooperation with ESYS took place on May 28, 2018, 9:00-17:00 hrs, at the Allianz Forum Berlin and was hosted by the Humboldt-Viadrina Governance Platform.

A press release is available here (only in German).


8th Trialog: Correctly assess and use bioenergy potentials, reduce side effects. How to design a long-term bioenergy strategy? | Feb 23, 2018
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Biomass is currently contributing more to the supply of energy in Germany than all other renewable energy sources together and is used in the heat and electricity sector as well as for fuel production. Many studies suggest that an energy transition without bioenergy would become much more difficult and expensive, as bioenergy can replace fossil fuels. However, against the potential to contribute to climate protection must be set the risks due to undesired side effects of using bioenergy. If sustainability criteria are ignored, the cultivation of energy crops can cause greenhouse gases, may have a negative impact on biodiversity and soil quality and pollute the water.

The contribution of bioenergy to the future energy supply in Germany and the role of bioenergy with carbon dioxide capture and storage (CCS) for climate protection was discussed by experts of the academy project “Energy Systems of the Future” together with stakeholders from politics and administration, business and organized civil society in the Trialog on the Energiewende, organized by the Humboldt-Viadrina Governance Platform. The full-day dialogue event took place on February 23, 2018 in the Allianz Forum Berlin.

A press release is available here (only in German).

The Trialog report is available here (only in German).

7th Trialog: Manage Risks Smartly. How do we Create Robust Digital Energy Infrastructures? | Dec 14, 2017
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The energy system is becoming more and more networked and digital. In addition to opportunities, this also entails risks. How fast must the digital energy transition be driven to make good use of opportunities and prevent risks? How can critical energy infrastructures be redesigned to create a safe and smart energy system? Who should be involved and what new responsibilities arise?

Experts from the academy project “Energy Systems of the Future” discussed this topic together with stakeholders from politics, administration, business and organized civil society at the Trialog on the energy transition organized by the Humboldt-Viadrina Governance Platform. The dialogue event took place on December 14, 2017 in the Allianz Forum Berlin.

You can find the press release here (only in German).

The Trialog report (in German) is available here.

6th Trialog: The Governance of the Energy Union | July 13, 2017
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Prof. Schlacke provides an introduction to the draft governance-regulation © acatech/Stemmler

With the Agenda 2030 and the Paris Climate Agreement, two important international sustainability and climate protection agreements were adopted in 2015. Main targets are to limit global warming to well below 2°C in the long run and to achieve a greenhouse-gas neutral world in the second half of the century.

Germany and the European Union ratified the Paris Agreement. In order to implement it, the European energy supply has to be transformed in a joint approach. But conflicts within the European Union and between member states may hamper the implementation, for example if some European member states continue to rely on fossil fuels in the long run. Does the European Commission have enough competences in the field of energy policy to steer the transition process and reach the climate targets? Are the instruments and procedures foreseen in the “Clean Energy Package for All Europeans” (winter package) suitable and how can a fair distribution of responsibilities be organized?

A newly set-up working groups within the project  “Energy Systems of the Future” (ESYS) deals with these and other questions regarding the governance proposal. In the Trialog “The Governance of the Energy Union – between national energy strategies and the Paris climate targets” on July 13, 2017 experts from the ESYS project exchanged ideas and perspectives with representatives from the public sector, business sector and organized civil society.

A press release is availabe here (in German only).

The Trialog report (in German) is available here.

5th Trialog: Setting a Path for Urban Mobility – How to make the Right Decisions? | Jan 12, 2017

People move within cities, and goods need to be transported from A to B.  But most cars and lorries in our cities emit substances that harm our health and the environment. To reduce the emissions, we can rely on a range of options and alternatives. How will we move within cities in the future? What is the role of new technologies? And how can we set a path for a low-carbon urban mobility while facing a number of uncertainties?

Decisions we take today determine developments of the mobility sector for the decades to come. If a certain path is chosen and certain technologies developed, it is difficult to easily switch to another path with different technologies. Inner-city transport is a good example: Electric vehicles and fuel cell cars need new infrastructure to provide the vehicles with electricity or hydrogen respectively. Once charging stations or hydrogen filling stations are built, it will be challenging for a new or competing technology to succeed. What strategies can guide us in such a situation to look ahead and take decisions responsibly?

In the Trialog, the working group on path dependencies of the academies project “Energy Systems of the Future” discussed these and related questions with representatives from the public sector, the business sector and organized civil society.

The Trialog report is available (in German) here.

4th Trialog: Sector Coupling – From Electricity Transition to Energy Transition | July 11, 2016

The first Trialog in the second phase of the project dealt with the topic of sector coupling and took place on July 11, 2017. So far the energy transition has been first and foremost a transition of the electricity sector: The share of renewable energies in the German gross electricity consumption has risen to 33 percent in 2015. In contrast, their share in the heating and transport sector is much lower with 13 and 5 percent respectively. Technologies in the electricity sector seem best suitable for providing carbon-neutral energy production on a larger scale. Therefore, electricity is expected to play a crucial role in the heating and transport sector in the medium and long-term perspective.

The participants of the Trialog discussed amongst others the opportunities and limits of a further integration of the electricity, heating and transport sector. They also discussed in what cases a direct electrification seems most suitable and  which alternative options exist in other cases (e.g. such as synthetic fuels). It was emphasized to make sure that the increased use of electricity actually leads to a reduction of CO2-Emissions. Finally, the participants mentioned a range of political and social implications that must be taken into account for a stronger sector coupling.

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

3rd Trialog: Energy Transition = (De)central? | Dec 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.

2nd Trialog: Raw Materials in the Energy Transition – Avoid New Dependencies Through Recycling | Oct 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.

1st Trialog: Nudging in the Energy Sector – Nudging the Energy Transition Forward May 5, 2015 | 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.