Centralized and decentralized components in the energy system. The right mix for ensuring a stable and sustainable supply

Position Paper of the Academies' Project “Energy Systems of the Future”

Series on Science-Based Policy Advice


  • Publisher/author
  • acatech/Leopoldina/Akademienunion
  • published
  • April 2020
  • ISBN
  • 978-3-8047-4061-7
  • volume
  • 108

A mix of centralized and decentralized technologies is the only way to ensure a climate-friendly, secure and economic energy supply. The challenge is to integrate the individual components to create a functional overall system. The “(De)centralized energy supply” working group of the Academies' Project “Energy Systems of the Future” makes the following proposals:

  • All potential for expanding wind and photovoltaic systems must be exploited if Germany is to be able to be greenhouse gas neutral by 2050. Photovoltaic systems on roofs and building surfaces, dual use such as wind or solar energy and agriculture, offshore wind energy and energy imports can alleviate the land-use conflicts which occur.
  • In the absence of transmission and distribution grid expansion, the energy transition will fail, irrespective of whether the energy system has a more centralized or a more decentralized orientation. If grid expansion progress is slow due to a lack of acceptance, decentralized approaches can help to ensure that renewable energy expansion targets can nevertheless still be met in the short to medium term.
  • Digital applications are essential for efficient control of the energy system. The more decentralized is the energy system, the more stakeholders shape it and the greater is the complexity. Smart distribution grids interconnect generators, storage systems and consumers.
  • A new, streamlined regulatory system can promote innovation and enable system-beneficial prosumption. Grid-beneficial expansion and operation of renewable energy plants saves costs for additional grid expansion.
  • The energy transition can only succeed if it is actively supported by the population. Opportunities for political and economic participation may be of assistance here.
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