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The energy system of the future will be fundamentally different from what we have today. The decisive factors will be a high level of energy security, effective climate change mitigation, and an economically viable energy supply. From an economic point of view, our energy transition will only be a lasting success if Germany remains a competitive base for industry.

The Federal Government promotes research and development in the field of forward-looking energy technologies. It is therefore using the 7th Energy Research Programme to help companies and research establishments to research and develop technologies for the energy supply of tomorrow. The Energy Research Programme is a strategic element of the Federal Government’s energy policy that aims to support this continuous research and innovation process.

The 7th Energy Research Programme defines the current principles and priorities for Federal Government funding for innovative energy technology. In this context, assistance is aimed primarily at technologies that meet the requirements of the energy transition. As regards the thematic priorities of energy efficiency and renewable energies, the focus is on funding measures for technologies in the fields of wind and solar power generation, a higher proportion of renewables in the heating sector through biomass and geothermal energy, energy-optimised buildings and neighbourhoods, and energy efficiency in the industrial sector. Special emphasis is placed on issues relating to the integration of new technologies into the energy system, the development of the grids, energy storage, and sector coupling.

The new Energy Research Programme

In September 2018, the Federal Cabinet adopted the 7th Energy Research Programme entitled “Innovations for the Energy Transition”. It contains the guidelines for energy research funding in the coming years. In the context of the 7th Energy Research Programme, the Federal Government is making around €7 billion available for projects. New thematic priorities are set on the basis of the following strategy lines:

  • Funding increasingly follows a more holistic and systemic approach. The focus is thus placed on research on the transformation of the energy system. The Energy Research Programme for the first time also addresses the technology readiness level, i.e. the desired maturity of a technology, thus covering the entire innovation cycle in an interministerial manner.
  • In addition to specific technologies, funding is made available for overarching, cross-sector issues such as energy efficiency, reduction of consumption, sector coupling and digitisation. This contributes to ensuring a holistic funding approach.
  • Thanks to the innovative funding format of ‘living labs’, the energy system of the future can already be tested today. The results and experience serve as a blueprint for the actual practical implementation. At the same time, more funding is planned to be made available to start-ups, which are essential to provide fresh impetus to the energy transition.
  • It is essential that research is closely linked at European and international level. For this reason, cooperation with international organisations will be expanded and scientific exchange will be promoted. Furthermore, the improvement of the capacity to export and of the competitiveness plays an important role.

Since the launch of the 1st Energy Research Programme in 1977, the Federal Government has invested around €12 billion to fund over 17,300 non-nuclear energy research projects.

The process to elaborate the 7th Energy Research Programme, which started in December 2016, involved a broad range of stakeholders, including representatives from industry, academia, civil society and the Länder. The results were presented to the public in February 2018.

The strategic flagship project “Trends and prospects in energy research” provided academic support for the consultation process. On 25 July 2018, the report entitled “Technologies for the Energy Transition” was handed over to Thomas Bareiß, Parliamentary State Secretary at the Federal Ministry for Economic Affairs and Energy. The findings of the study served as an academic basis for the 7th Energy Research Programme.

The Federal Government also funds the research and development of forward-looking energy technologies in areas outside its Energy Research Programme. These are projects in other programmes where the energy policy aspects are not the main focus, such as aviation research and the promotion of technology for small and medium-sized businesses.

Making energy research transparent and open

The Federal Government’s “Research and Innovation” advisory service is the first point of contact for all matters related to the funding of research and innovation. It informs potential applicants about funding programmes and contact points and about the latest funding initiatives. Its services include a support service for companies to guide them through the system, tailored particularly to the needs of small and medium-sized companies.

2018 Federal Report on Energy Research: transparency for the Federal Government’s funding policy

The report is published every year and serves to give an extensive overview over the Federal Government's research promotion policy in the field of energy. Progress made and current trends in the field of research promotion are presented in the report in a transparent manner. This report also includes the latest figures from the European Research Framework Programme and data about energy research activities supported by the Länder. The figures on project funding contained in the Federal Report on Energy Research are also made transparent by EnArgus, the central information system on energy research of the Federal Ministry for Economic Affairs and Energy.

In 2017, the Federal Government spent around €1.01 billion on research, development and the demonstration of modern energy technologies. The funding volume thus again rose compared with the preceding year (2016: €876 billion). The largest proportion of the funds (around 80%) was invested in research on renewable energy and energy efficiency. The continuation of this positive trend underlines the central role of energy research paving the way for the energy transition.