Energy Transition

Germany has faced the challenge of an energy transition. The overall target is less dependence on nuclear energy and coal transforming to decentralised renewable energy systems (e.g. based on bioenergy crops, wind and solar power). This ambitious goal is not only promising but also poses risks and adverse effects. The use of bioenergy crops is rapidly growing in the EU and Germany in order to satisfy their need. Currently more than 13% of the European agricultural land is already used for bioenergy crops and landscape composition continues to change rapidly. New use conflicts come up as an increase in biomass requires additional land that could have otherwise been used to grow food crops or conserve wildlife. Beside additional land demand for biogas, wind power and solar plants, power networks will have to be extended - increasingly fragmenting the landscape.

energy transition from conventional to decentralized renewable
Conceptual scheme of the transition from a conventional energy systems (left) to a decentralized renewable energy system (left).

Hence, we meet this challenge by combining ecological, social and economic modelling approaches in the following projects:

  • spatially explicit modelling to quantify farmland bird abundance under different land-use scenarios in order to derive mitigation strategies
  • modelling the decisions of farmers on land-use patterns influenced by various market and policy instruments and examining their securtity
  • analysing the potential of natural habitats (forests, grasslands) for buffering negative impacts of biomass-production driven land-use changes under a changing climate
  • investigating ecosystem functions (e.g. biomass supply, carbon storage in soil) of differently managed grasslands, energy grasses and short rotation coppices (SRC) for bioenergy production
  • spatially explicit modelling of the energy infrastructure in the transformation from a conventional energy system to a decentralized renewable energy system with the focus on landscape patterns (including security of supply, ecological spatial impacts, economic regulation via policy instruments and the EEG)
  • optimization of the spatial distribution of renewable power generation and energy grid expansion in Germany – including production costs, negative external effects and reflections on justice in the society concerning the distribution of costs and externalities
  • exploring the impacts of global food security policies on local land use strategies and investigating the resulting social-ecological resilience of smallholding farmers
from land use decisions to patterns
Land-use patterns (right) emerging from land use decisions of farmers on the basis of soil quality and transport costs to biogas plants (left).

Selected Publications