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Energy Systems

Energy systems world-wide will have to undergo a fundamental transformation within the coming decades to meet the requirements of climate protection, environmental sustainability, economic prosperity and affordable energy access especially for the world’s poor. To achieve the climate goals formulated in the Paris Agreement, near-zero emissions energy systems have to be achieved within the coming century. The need for deep decarbonization of energy systems coincides with a period of revolutionary technological developments for instance in renewable power generation, digitalization, mobility and urban life, with profound implications for energy systems.

The energy system group aspires to respond to the higher than ever need for systems-based, interdisciplinary science on energy transformations. Crucial question for energy transition research are: How can zero-emissions energy systems look like? How can the transformation be achieved? How can the electrification of currently non-electric energy demands for transportation, industry and buildings go hand in hand with integration of large shares of variable electricity supply from wind and solar? What is the scope for innovative carbon management processes to provide emissions-neutral materials, renewables-based synthetic fuels or even negative CO2 emissions? With which policies can the country-level mitigation measures pledged for 2030 as part of the nationally determined contributions be strengthened in line with the long-term requirement of near-zero emissions? What are non-climate environmental impacts of energy supply and use, and how can they be minimized? 

Regarding methods, our research builds strongly on the REMIND model, which is complemented with sector-specific and bottom-up analyses. The REMIND modelling team has been a leading force in the advancement of the state of the art of integrated assessment modeling. However, further improvements in the granularity of sectoral, regional, technology and policy detail remain to be achieved to spell out concrete sectoral transformations in major economies and in the near-term, as well as their broader environmental and social benefits and adverse effects.

The energy system’s group is structured into six research themes, three of which are covered by subgroups:

a)       National energy transitions (Co-lead: Robert Pietzcker and Falko Ueckerdt)

The National Energy Transitions Team (NETT) addresses country-specific needs and perspectives of national policy makers and stakeholders by exploring national transition pathways towards zero-emissions economies. In important focus of this activity is to analyze new patterns of trade in electricity, synthetic fuels and energy-intensive goods that emerge as part of the transition to largely renewable based energy systems. In close interaction with Theme (c),NETT analyzes the market integration of wind and solar power, electrification (power-to-X, sector coupling), and related economic opportunities.,. Current analyses focus on Germany, the European Union, Australia. An extension to other regions is planned.

b)       Transformation of demand sectors

The energy sector is not only responsible for the bulk of human greenhouse gas emissions, but also for many other environmental impacts. Climate protection measures are estimated to result in substantial environmental co-benefits, but also bear the risk of adverse side effects, e.g. from increased land demand for bioenergy or excessive material requirements. This research theme will integrate energy-economic modeling with approaches from other disciplines, such as air pollution modeling, life-cycle assessment and land use modeling to derive quantitative insights on these co-benefits and adverse side-effects. The goal of this activity is to derive sustainable transformation strategies that simultaneously address multiple societal objectives.

c)        Renewable electricity integration and sector coupling

If integration challenges at high market shares of the variable renewables wind and solar can be managed, their substantial resources in combination with their unprecedented cost reductions make electricity the energy carrier that is easiest to decarbonize. Under stringent climate policies, we thus expect a paradigm shift towards sector-coupling: deeply integrated energy sectors with a high level of electrification, facilitated by increasing flexibilization of energy demands. Depending how this sector-coupling is implemented, increasing the use of electricity for heat and mobility provision can either create new challenges that hinder, or provide new flexibilities that facilitate the integration of renewable electricity. This research theme will combine models on various temporal and spatial scales in order to explore the full-system synergies and tradeoffs of sector-coupling.

d)       Carbon management (Lead: Jessica Strefler)

To achieve zero or even negative emissions, CO2 from residual fossil fuel use will have to be either stored or offset by carbon dioxide removal (CDR) from the atmosphere. This research theme assesses the economic viability and climate efficiency of various carbon capture utilization and storage (CCUS) and CDR technologies. Integrated energy-economy-landuse modelling provides quantitative insights into synergies and trade-offs between various CCUS and CDR technologies and with the energy and land-use system as well as environmental and societal impacts. The goal of this activity is to embed CCUS and CDR technologies into the general energy system transformation strategy under consideration of broader sustainability implications.

e)       International climate policy analysis (Lead: Christoph Bertram)

Emissions reductions pledged as part of the nationally determined contributions fall short of what is required to put the World on track for limiting warming to well below 2°C, let alone 1.5°C. Keeping the Paris climate targets within reach therefore requires a a strengthening of of policy implementation and enforcement on the national level, as well as enhanced international cooperation. This research theme/cross-cutting activity explores the adequacy of climate policy vis-à-vis the internationally agreed targets, options for strengthening while overcoming political economy barriers, and entry points for increasing international collaboration.  A central goal is to inform the international climate policy discourse as well as economic and financial actors.

f)        Environmental impacts

The energy sector is not only responsible for the bulk of human greenhouse gas emissions, but also many other environmental impacts. Climate protection measures are estimated to result in substantial environmental co-benefits, but also bear the risk of adverse side effects, e.g. from increased land use for bioenergy. This research theme integrates energy-economic modeling with approaches from other disciplines, such as air pollution modeling, life-cycle assessment and land use modeling to derive quantitative insights on non-climate environmental impacts, and derive transformation pathways that maximize co-benefits and limit adverse side-effects.

Recent research projects and community activities

  • Climate pOlicy assessment and Mitigation Modeling to Integrate national and global Transition pathways (COMMIT)
  • Innovation Pathways, Strategies and Policies for the Low-Carbon Transition in Europe (INNOPATHS)
  • Pathways and Entry Points to limit global warming to 1.5°C (PEP1p5)
  • Kopernikus Project Energy Transition Navigation System (Enavi)

  • Volkswagen Project: The Next Generation Policies

  • Australian-German Energy Transition Hub (START
  • Linking Climate and Development Policies: Leveraging International Networks and Knowledge Sharing (CD-LINKS)
  • Advanced Model Development and Validation for the Improved Analysis of Costs and Impacts of Mitigation Policies (ADVANCE)
  • Assessment of Mitigation Pathways and Evaluation of the Robustness of Mitigation Cost Estimates (AMPERE)
  • Shared Socioeconomic Pathways (SSP)
  • Low Climate Impact Scenarios and the Impliciations of Required Tight Emissions Control Strategies (LIMITS)
  • 27th round of the Stanford Energy Modeling Forum (EMF27)
  • Roadmaps towards Sustainble Energy futures (RoSE) - completed
  • Scenarios on the feasibility of emission reductions towards limiting climate change to 2°C (commissioned by the German Federal Environment Agency) - completed
  • Asian Modeling Exercise (AME): The contribution of Asia to the global mitigation challenge - completed
  • Adaptation and Mitigation Strategies: Supporting European Climate Policy (ADAM) - completed
  • Report on Energy and Climate Policies in Europe (RECIPE) - complete

Team

Gunnar Luderer (leader)
Christoph Bertram
Alois Dirnaichner
Ahmad Murtaza Ershad
Karthik Kumar
Lucia Layritz
Antoine Levesque
Silvia Madeddu
Aman Malik
Leon Merfort
Michaja Pehl
Robert Pietzcker
Laura Popin
Sebastian Rauner
Renato Rodrigues
Marianna Rottoli
Felix Schreyer
Atreya Shankar
Jessica Strefler
Falko Ueckerdt

REMIND group 2018


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