Helmholtz-Alliance ENERGY-TRANS

"Future infrastructures for meeting energy demands. Towards sustainability and social compatibility"

Logo Helmholtz-Alliance





2011 – 2016

Outline of the Alliance ENERGY-TRANS

Research in the energy sector concentrated so far on the development of new energy technologies and their optimal combination towards an efficient and effective energy mix. With the envisioned energy transformation in Germany, energy supply will be primarily based on renewable sources of energy and efficiency gains. Furthermore, the demand side of energy will become a major topic of research and will be at the core of future energy policies.

The Helmholtz Alliance ENERGY-TRANS places the connections between and among energy technologies, planning procedures and consumer behavior in the focus of the research interests and investigations. Research projects include the interaction of energy supply, energy distribution and energy storage on the one hand and institutional governance and consumer behavior on the other hand. The results are expected to provide policy-oriented knowledge for an efficient and socially acceptable design of a sustainable energy system. Research activities are organized in 19 projects and several crosscutting activities and Integrative Key Topics.

Project "Regulation and Incentives" (UFZ-Department of Economics, ZEW, FZJ, DLR)

Using several case studies, this project aims at analyzing the risks associated with the implementation of policy instruments. Firstly, those risks are addressed which result from conflicts between promoting renewable energies and other policy objectives relevant for the energy sector. Three aspects are examined in particular: Issues of supply security (effects on investments in fossil-fuel plants, regulation of capacity markets and merchant transmission), ecological and social conflicts related to land use and impacts on innovation investments undertaken by firms. Secondly, light is also shed on risks arising when several policy instruments are implemented in parallel in the energy sector. Case studies analyze the policy mix in the electricity, heat and transportation sector. Each case study is meant to assess the existing risks and derive recommendations for policy reform.

Case study analyses are carried out using primarily economic approaches, for example, from energy, environmental, industrial, innovation and institutional economics. The methodologies employed are quite heterogeneous and selected according to the needs of each case study. Qualitative as well as quantitative tools are used.

Energy-economic research at UFZ

Project "Due processes in energy infrastructure planning" (UFZ Departments of Environmental and Planning Law and Economics)

In this project specific attention is given to the spatial planning and procedural law in planning processes. It focuses on network planning, i.e. the planning processes for the expansion of electricity transmission lines, as well as wind energy planning, as a key technology among renewable energies.

The project aims to draw conclusions about how to adjust the spatial planning law in a way that on one hand takes account of requests for acceleration and expansion, and on the other hand considers the requirements of environmental protection and the rights and interests of people that are affected by the plans. A key starting point is a comprehensible requirement planning and an assessment of alternatives that involves the public already at the beginning of the planning process and sets important conditions for public acceptance.

The German legislator has already taken important steps in this regard and enacted for example the “Energiewirtschaftsgesetz” (Law on Energy Management) and the “Netzausbaubeschleunigungsgesetz” (Law on Acceleration of the Energy Network) that both can be seen as a response to the disaster of 'Stuttgart 21'. In addition to an analysis of these laws it is also planned to accompany the implementation process of those laws.

Building upon the acceptance study, different planning options in the wind energy sector will be investigated with respect to public preferences. Economic valuation methods (i.e. Choice Experiments) will be used to identify the most preferred options. Among other things, insights into communities’ preferences regarding the power supply system (independent power supply vs. supply through energy companies) will be generated.

Integrative Key Topic "Regulation, Instruments, Governance" (UFZ-Department of Economics, ZEW)

This Integrated Key Topic overarches the different projects of the Alliance. It aims at deriving policy recommendations for a comprehensive and integrated portfolio of policy instruments to guide the transformation of the energy sector towards sustainability. Thus, it is meant to overcome the very fragmented discussion of policy instruments prevailing at the moment. It analyzes interactions and interdependencies between the different elements of the energy system and the corresponding political framework, including all

  • Types of uses (electricity, heat, transportation)
  • Technical steps (generation, transmission and distribution, storage, demand)
  • Spatial levels (local, regional, national, European)
  • Policy objectives (e.g., climate change mitigation, supply security, nature conservation, economic development)
  • Policy instruments (e.g., emissions trading, taxes, subsidies, command-and-control and planning approaches)

For this purpose, this Integrated Key Topic synthesizes and integrates the research results gained within the different projects of the Alliance. The discussion of policy instruments is related to variety of research fields represented in the Alliance, including socio-technical barriers to transformation, innovation analysis, coping with uncertainty, consumer behavior, acceptance and reflexive governance. The Integrative Key Topic provides a compilation of different disciplinary perspectives on the use and evaluation of policy instruments.