Members of the Panel Discussion
Prof. Dr Armin Grunwald, Spokesman of the Helmholtz Alliance ENERGY-TRANS and Head of ITAS at the KIT
Prof. Dr Dr h.c. Reinhard F. J. Hüttl, Vice-President of the Helmholtz Association and Scientific Director of the GFZ
Stephan Kohler, Deutsche Energie-Agentur GmbH (dena - German Energy Agency)
Dr Holger Krawinkel, Federation of German Consumer Organisations - vzbv
Dr Werner Neumann, Spokesman for Energy Policy, Bund für Umwelt und Naturschutz Deutschland (BUND Friends of the Earth Germany)
Katherina Reiche, Parliamentary State Secretary at the German Federal Ministry for the Environment, Nature Conservation and Nuclear Safety
Prof. Dr Ortwin Renn, Spokesman of the Helmholtz Alliance ENERGY-TRANS (presentation), Stuttgart University
Prof. Dr.-Ing. Michael Weinhold, CTO Siemens Energy, Siemens AG
Helmholtz Energy Discussion
Some 60 guests from the world of research, politics and the general population had followed the invitation from the Helmholtz Alliance ENERGY-TRANS and had come to Berlin to attend the first Helmholtz Energy Discussion on 27 June 2012. The energy discussions are conceived as a platform for exchange and in future are to render open to discussion also intermediate results and theses generated by the work of the research groups involved in the alliance. The panel discussion included representatives from various groups involved in the energy transition, from the BUND Friends of the Earth Germany to the Deutsche Energie-Agentur (dena - German Energy Agency) and the German Federal Ministry for the Environment, Nature Conservation and Nuclear Safety. The series of talks is to be continued in the coming year with an event in Brussels.
All discussion participants agreed as regards the basic premise: The energy transition can be managed not in a merely technocratic manner, but will be successful only if accepted and adopted by broad sections of society. This is the only way to render decisions and in particular also set agendas sufficiently reliable to encourage long-term investments. The panel agreed that therefore a bridge between the various viewpoints, interests and standards of knowledge needs to be built, a task for which the Helmholtz Alliance ENERGY-TRANS is to compile a knowledge base. "The energy system consists not only of power plants, power lines, electrical outlets; it is not a purely technical system but a socio-technical system involving also the contribution from people. This is a perspective that is new to the Helmholtz Association," said Armin Grunwald.
The panel agreed also that the new energy supply system will be significantly more complicated than the old one as there are more stakeholders. The interaction of centralised and decentralised producers of energy, ranging from large-scale producers, over public utility companies, to private households, needs to be skilfully organised. However, Michael Weinhold, CTO Siemens Energy, brought attention to the fact that so far no overall concept for the energy transition exists. Instead, only subsystems are being built following particularist interests. As an example, Weinhold mentioned the solar facilities, which by now yield almost 30 gigawatt at peak performance, which then are simply fed into the old grid even though this was constructed only for a maximum load of 80 gigawatt. In contrast, Weinhold said he wished to see the introduction of a systemic approach for Germany and Europe, which takes into consideration aspects such as safety and cost efficiency. Stephan Kohler from the German Energy Agency dena, which recently was criticised in particular by environmental groups for its grid study, took this argument a step further: "Many people claim that decentralised is a good thing per se and if we were to decentralise our energy systems, we would no longer need compound systems. This is nonsense. 100,000 small PV systems are like a large-scale power plant that must to be controlled."
In his capacity as consumer representative, Holger Krawinkel stated that many house owners insulate their houses even without the need for incentive programmes and that they showed interest in saving energy. "The consumer is willing to act, if he can, yet on the other hand is interested also in knowing about the costs." Krawinkel compared the energy system with the health system, which likewise needs to be safeguarded by the state on the one hand, but contains market elements on the other. The energy system still lacks platforms and sections for negotiating the various stakeholder interests.
As the representative for environmental protection, Werner Neumann interjected that expert groups from the BUND had compiled concrete proposals for the implementation of the energy transition, pertaining to, for example, tenancy law, energy saving and decentralisation; so far, however, these proposals have not yet met with much interest on part of politics.
State Secretary Katherina Reiche contradicted this statement: "As regards the energy transition, politics have moved forward to a degree many would not have thought possible only one year ago." She said this was in spite of political management being highly complex as it requires the uniting of the European level, the federal level, the federal state level and the municipalities. "The development of renewable energy sources has progressed with a fast pace. However, the extension of the grid did not keep up with that pace, so that now we are facing problems with the grid." Therefore, said Katherina Reiche, the civilian groups of society, who wanted the further development of the renewable energies, now have to support also the grid extension. Yet micro-management and control are not tasks within the responsibility of politics. Rather, she said, it is important to create framework conditions within which stakeholders from the economy and the social sphere can operate.
At the end of the event it had become clear that platforms for constructive exchange and transparent procedures in the decision-making process must constitute an integral part of the energy transition.