Keynote address by Ottmar Edenhofer (MCC/PIK): "Without the CO2 price, the energy transition will fail." © acatech/Himsel

How will the energy transition become a success story again?

13. September 2018

From Bangkok to San Francisco to New York: three international climate conferences are currently devoted to the question of how energy supply can become climate-friendly worldwide. The fact that the course must now be set in order to achieve the Paris climate targets was also the tenor of the ESYS Energy Symposium on 12 September 2018 in Berlin. Only through integrated and intelligent solutions and international cooperation can the transformation of energy systems pick up speed again. The ESYS scientists discussed with 250 stakeholders from politics, business and civil society what Germany must do to achieve the next phase of the energy system transformation.

In his keynote speech, Ottmar Edenhofer (Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research and Mercator Research Institute on Global Commons and Climate Change) stressed the great pressure to act in climate policy - it is now a matter of getting out of coal internationally and nationally. He sees CO2 pricing as a key instrument for climate protection: "A CO2 price offers three advantages: It makes climate-friendly technologies competitive, punishes the use of fossil fuels and generates revenue. Without a sufficiently high CO2 price, climate policy will fail - and so will the transformation of energy systems".

The subsequent panel discussion focused on which technologies, energy sources and business models will shape the energy system of the future and how public acceptance can be ensured. Manfred Fischedick (Wuppertal Institute for Climate, Environment and Energy), Hans-Martin Henning (Fraunhofer Institute for Solar Energy Systems ISE), Klaus-Dieter Maubach (Encavis AG), Karen Pittel (ifo Centre for Energy, Climate and Resources), Ortwin Renn (IASS Potsdam) and Dirk Uwe Sauer (Institut für Stromrichtertechnik und Elektrische Antriebe an der RWTH Aachen) spoke in favour of further developing the various technology options - including synthetic fuels, hydrogen and Power-to-X - but also of examining whether new infrastructures would be necessary in order to be able to use them. Under certain circumstances, Germany might also have to consider importing green energy sources. At the same time, it was important to find a good narrative in order to convey the opportunities and necessity of energy system transformation to the citizens.

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The mobility of the future is electric and digital

Transport remains the problem child of the energy revolution: emissions have risen instead of fallen in recent years. Digitisation could become an important driver for climate-friendly mobility, for example if more electric vehicles roll along the roads, whose batteries also serve as electricity storage. In an expert interview, Sigrid Evelyn Nikutta (Berliner Verkehrsbetriebe BVG) drew a picture of the digital mobility of the future: trams, trains and buses run on electricity, local public transport becomes a mobility platform and is digitally linked to sharing services. The result is an attractive public transport system that makes cities a better place to live and the air cleaner. Germany could also learn from other countries: In Hong Kong, for example, 90 percent of the population travel by train. How mobility can be rethought and intelligently controlled was discussed by the BVG CEO with Barbara Lenz (Institute for Transport Research at the German Aerospace Center DLR) and Rada Rodriguez (Schneider Electric GmbH). The aim is to design mobility in such a way that emissions from traffic are noticeably reduced - electric vehicles, for example, always have to run on green electricity. In order to compensate for fluctuations and store electricity efficiently, decentralised, digitally linked distribution networks are needed. In addition to strengthening local transport, the experts also called for more research and development into alternative drive systems.

Debate on CO2 pricing

Lukas Köhler (FDP parliamentary group) and Ingrid Nestle (Bündnis 90/Die Grünen parliamentary group) discussed key climate policy instruments and strategies. They did not agree on the question of which instrument would most effectively reduce emissions: While Ingrid Nestle advocated a uniform price for all CO2 emissions as a tax or charge, Lukas Köhler recommended extending emissions trading to the heat and transport sectors. On the other hand, they were certain that if the price of CO2 emission certificates continued to rise, coal would soon no longer be economically viable. The structural change in the affected regions must be actively shaped.

New energy policy measures: Climate Protection Act, Mobility Platform, franco-german cooperation

In the subsequent discussion on the energy policy guidelines, Frank Heidrich (Federal Ministry of Economics and Energy) described how the building sector could play its part in reducing emissions: a CO2 price could help boost building efficiency and make renewable energies competitive. This possibility is currently being examined - the government has not yet been able to agree on it. Berthold Goeke (Federal Ministry for the Environment, Nature Conservation and Nuclear Safety) referred to new measures and energy policy projects - including the Federal Climate Protection Act announced for 2019 and the National Platform "Future of Mobility", which will begin its work in September. International cooperation will also be expanded: the State Secretaries for the Environment from Germany and France recently launched an interministerial working group to jointly develop solutions for climate protection.

Energy system transformation needs innovation, courage and clear framework conditions

The concluding panel discussion focused on how Germany can achieve the next phase of energy system transformation in concrete terms. In his impulse, the Political Director of Germanwatch Christoph Bals recommended creating a level playing field for taxes and levies as well as a cross-sector flexibility market. Tilman Schwencke (Federal Association of Energy and Water Management) called for innovations and courageous decisions for the next phase of the energy turnaround - micromanagement would not lead to the goal. Florian Bieberbach (Stadtwerke München) took up this point: The politicians must set clear basic conditions and must not be afraid of wrong decisions. Eberhard Umbach (acatech Presidium) also spoke out in favour of clear political statements on the costs and benefits of the energy system transformation - otherwise one could not take the population with one. Lucia Reisch (Copenhagen Business School) emphasized that the energy system transformation was above all a joint effort. Information, dialogue and participation are important prerequisites for the successful restructuring of the energy system.

The energy symposium "ENERGI3: Integrated, intelligent, international - the next phase of energy system transformation" was organised by the academy project "Energy Systems of the Future" (ESYS) at the dbb forum berlin.