Energy Economic Research at UFZ

Our Approach

Energy economic research at UFZ is closely connected with the environmental and sustainability aspects of energy policy. Our applied research specifically focuses on the current challenges of both Germany’s Energiewende and European energy policy. We analyze energy and environmental policy from an economic perspective and within the context of a world characterized by the simultaneity of various political goals, multiple market failures, institutional path dependencies and politico-economic restrictions of regulation.

We conduct our research in an interdisciplinary context. Within UFZ we cooperate closely with our colleagues from the departments Environmental and Planning Law, Ecological Modelling and Bioenergy. Our research partners include the German Biomass Research Centre (DBFZ), the German Aerospace Centre (DLR), the Centre for European Economic Research (ZEW), and the Stiftung Umweltenergierecht (foundation environmental energy law).

Our Research Topics

Our Methods

Current Projects

Publications and Team


Joint press release of the Helmholtz Centre for Environmental Research (UFZ) and the Centre for European Economic Research (ZEW):
Jetzt keine Kapazitätszahlungen für Kohle- und Gaskraftwerke. Wissenschaftler befürworten Mix von Maßnahmen, um die deutsche Stromversorgung zu sichern

New policy brief published by the Helmholtz Alliance ENERGY-TRANS:
Braucht Deutschland jetzt Kapazitätszahlungen für eine gesicherte Stromversorgung?

New article by Conrad Kunze and Paul Lehmann published in Energy Post:
The myth of the dark side of the Energiewende

more blog posts on energy economics

more publications on energy

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Our Research Topics

Market and system integration of renewable energies

The growing share of volatile renewable energies raises questions regarding the assurance of cost-effectiveness and security of electricity supply. In this context, we analyze options for further development of the current support scheme for renewables, for instance by introducing direct marketing and tendering. In addition, we investigate to what extent the electricity system needs to be managed differently so as to account for the challenges posed by renewables, e. g. in the fields of capacity mechanisms, grid regulation and use of flexibility options.

Federative energy policy

The relation between Germany’s Energiewende and European integration yields multiple tensions. At the same time, there may be potential for synergies. Core questions are whether a European integration of national energy policies is already in progress and what kind of energy policy harmonization/convergence would make sense from an economic point of view. Moreover, we analyze issues relating to the coordination of the energy transition policy between the federal government and the states (Bundesländer).

  • Strunz, S., Gawel, E., Lehmann, P., Söderholm, P. (2017): Policy convergence as a multi-faceted concept: The case of renewable energy policies in the EU. Journal of Public Policy, https://doi.org/10.1017/S0143814X17000034.
  • Gawel, E., Strunz, S. (2016): Dezentrale Energiepolitik – Eine fiskalföderalistische Perspektive für den deutschen Stromsektor. Vierteljahreshefte zur Wirtschaftsforschung 85 (4), 29-40.
  • Strunz, S., Gawel, E., Lehmann, P. (2016): The political economy of renewable energy policies in Germany and the EU. Utilities Policy 42, 33-41.
  • Strunz, S., Gawel, E. (2016): Importabhängigkeit und Energiewende – ein neues Risikofeld der Versorgungssicherheit? ifo-Schnelldienst 69 (15), 3-8.
  • Strunz, S., Gawel, E., Lehmann, P. (2015): Towards a general “Europeanization” of EU Member States’ energy policies? Economics of Energy & Environmental Policy 4 (2), 143-159.
  • Gawel, E., Strunz, S. (2014): State Aid Dispute on Germany’s Support for Renewables: Is the Commission on the Right Course? Journal for European Environmental and Planning Law 11 (2), 139-152.
  • Gawel, E., Strunz, S., Lehmann, P. (2014): Wieviel Europa braucht die Energiewende? Zeitschrift für Energiewirtschaft 38, 163-182.

Environmental compatibility of the Energiewende

Until now the Energiewende has been viewed by environmental policy mainly from a climate protection perspective. New ecological conflicts, emerging from the construction and operation of renewable energy plants and complementary infrastructure (grids, storage) have received only little attention in political debates so far. In this context, intra-ecological trade-offs may arise, e. g. between the protection of environment, species, water and climate. We systemize these trade-offs from an economic point of view and analyze instruments that might solve these issues. Both existing and possible new instruments are investigated as suitable alternatives.

  • Hagemann, N., Purkus, A., Hauck, J., Pannicke, N., Gawel, E. (2016): Possible futures towards a wood-based bioeconomy − a scenario analysis for Germany, Sustainability 8 (98), 1-24.
  • Pannicke, N., Gawel, E., Hagemann, N., Purkus, A., Strunz, S. (2015): The political economy of fostering a wood-based bioeconomy in Germany. German Journal of Agriculatural Economics 64 (4), 224-243.
  • Henle, K., Gawel, E., Ring, I., Strunz, S. (2016): Nuclear energy and biodiversity conservation in the face of climate change: response to Brook and Bradshaw, Conservation Biology 29, in press. DOI: 10.1111/cobi.12691.
  • Purkus, A., Röder, M., Gawel, E., Thrän, D., Thornley , P. (2015): Handling Uncertainty in Bioenergy Policy Design – A Case Study Analysis of UK and German Bioelectricity Policy Instruments, in: Biomass and Bioenergy, 79, 64-79.
  • Gawel, E. (2015): Nationale Klimaziele und die Kohlekraft − Wege und Irrwege, Zeitschrift für das gesamte Recht der Energiewirtschaft (EnWZ) 4 (10), 433-434.
  • Witte, K. (2015): Die Umweltverträglichkeit der Energiewende als Governance-Problem, in: Bruckner, Th., Gawel, E., Holländer, R., Thrän, D., Weinsziehr, Th., Verhoog, M. (Hrsg.): Zehn Jahre transdisziplinäre Nachhaltigkeitsforschung an der Universität Leipzig. Festschrift anlässlich des zehnjährigen Bestehens des Instituts für Infrastruktur und Ressourcenmanagement (IIRM) (= Studien zu Infrastruktur und Ressourcenmanagement, Bd. 5), Berlin: Logos, 119-124.

Spatial organization of the Energiewende

The rapid expansion of renewables goes along with growing spatial demand. It thus requires concepts for “optimizing” spatial allocation of power stations and complementary infrastructure. With regard to spatial distribution of power stations and grids, many trade-offs must be taken into consideration. On this basis, we address emerging local opposition as a challenge for a sustainable energy system. Our research goal is the dynamic solution or minimization of spatial trade-offs via spatially explicit instruments of energy or land use policy.

  • Korte, K., Gawel, E. (2016): Regional differenzierte Netzentgelte als Auslaufmodell?, Energiewirtschaftliche Tagesfragen 66 (1/2), 61-65.
  • Gawel, E., Korte, K., Singer, J. (2015): Flächennutzung und erneuerbare Energien zwischen Wirtschaftsförderung, Nachhaltigkeit und effizienter Raumallokation, in: Lempp, J., van der Beek, G., Korn, Th. (eds.): Aktuelle Herausforderungen in der Wirtschaftsförderung. Konzepte für eine positive regionale Entwicklung, Wiesbaden: Springer Fachmedien, 119-125.
  • Lauf, T., Söderholm, P., Lehmann, P., Gawel, E. (2015): Explaining regional differences in wind power deployment – Do institutions matter?, forthcoming.
  • Gawel, E., Singer, J. (2015): Raumallokation von Erneuerbaren Energien und komplementären Infrastrukturen in dezentralisierten Energielandschaften als Governance-Herausforderung, forthcoming.
  • Gawel, E., Korte, K. (2015): Regionale Verteilungswirkungen und Finanzierungsverantwortung: Bund und Länder bei der Strom-Energiewende, in: Müller, Th., Kahl, H. (Hrsg.): Energiewende im Föderalismus (Schriften zum Umweltenergierecht, Bd. 18), Baden-Baden: Nomos, 143-184.

Distribution effects of the Energiewende

The Energiewende alters energy provision in several ways. It creates new stakeholders and leads to novel structures of generation capacities, as well as changing cash flows and value added chains. There are controversial discussions about the resulting distributive effects, especially as regards personnel, sectoral and regional allocations. These effects evoke criticism of support for renewables in general and the specific support scheme in particular. In our research we investigate if these distributive effects really result due to the promotion of renewables. We classify and assess the effects from an economic point of view and analyze if and which kind of politicy intervention might be warranted.

Mix of environmental and energy policy instruments

Practice-oriented analyses of environmental and energy policy must comprise interdependencies between different instruments effective at the same time. One focus of our research is on the interactions between European emissions trading and national support schemes for renewables. Moreover, we look at the energy and electricity taxes, the German Renewable Energy Act and the regulatory instruments in the grid sector with respect to their potential to form a coherent policy mix.

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Theory and methodology

Our analyses draw on New Institutional Economics, especially the Theory of Transaction Cost Economics, New Political Economy, the Theory of Institutional Change, the Theory of Agency, the Property Rights Theory and the Economic Analysis of Law. Furthermore we apply theories and methods of environmental and energy economics, regulatory economics, public economics, regional economics and ecological economics. We use both quantitative and qualitative methods in our research. On the quantitative side, we deploy agent-based modelling and econometric analyses. In addition, we adapt partial equilibrium models and non-technical analyses.

Current Projects

Analyse der gesamtökonomischen Effekte von Biogasanlagen − Wirkungsabschätzung des EEG

Sustainable deployment of renewable energies with multiple environmental impacts − Policy strategies to address ecological trade-offs of the energy transition (MultiplEE)

Kopernikus-Projekte für die Energiewende. Systemintegration und Vernetzung der Energieversorgung − ENavi (BMBF)

Electricity grids in a sustainable energy system: an institutional economic investigation of energy grid regulation against the background of energy political goals in Germany (dissertation) (ENERGY-TRANS)

Environmental compatibility of the Energiewende – ecological and social trade-offs of a sustainable transformation of the energy supply systems (dissertation) (University of Leipzig, Institute for Infrastructure and Resources management)

Economic Analysis of Sustainable Spatial Allocations of Energy Systems – A Theoretical Examination and an Agent-Based Model of Renewable Energy Systems (dissertation) (Helmholtz Association)

Ökonomische Analyse der räumlichen Allokation erneuerbarer Energien und komplementärer Infrastrukturen (dissertation) (University of Leipzig, Institute for Infrastructure and Resources management)

Drivers of bioenergy production and their transregional effects (dissertation)

Posts on scientific blogs:

List of blog posts on energy economics