In September 2018, the German Federal Cabinet adopted . The programme contains the guidelines for energy research funding over the coming years. In order to reach the energy and , it is necessary to strive for a more efficient use of energy as well as to increase the share of renewable energy in all consumption sectors. Energy research plays a crucial part here as it drives the development of new and better climate-friendly generations of technology. Research and research funding are thus laying the foundation for the carbon-neutral energy system of the future. The know-how that is being developed not only drives the energy transition, but also strengthens the leading position of German companies in the field of modern energy technologies and safeguards value creation, jobs and prosperity in Germany.
Applied energy research: Paving the way for climate neutrality
Economy and society depend on having a reliable and affordable energy supply. On the one hand, this means that technically and economically viable sources of energy must be continuously available. On the other hand, given increased feed-in fluctuations of renewables and growing digital networking, ensuring the technical robustness and resilience of the energy supply system is a strategically important task that is also relevant in economic, societal and security policy terms.
Energy research policy focuses on the parameters that are crucial for meeting current and future demands in this field. One important goal is to make the energy system climate-neutral. This goal can only be met if the share of renewable energy sources is continuously increased in the following areas: wind energy and photovoltaics in electricity generation; biomass, geothermal and solar energy in heat supply, and electric mobility and synthetic fuels in the transport sector.
For renewables to be integrated into existing systems in an optimal and resource-efficient manner, an overarching approach is required that embraces different elements collectively. Essential topics in this regard are, for example, power grids, digitisation, hydrogen technologies and sector coupling. The latter links the areas of electricity, heat, mobility and industry. For example, electricity from renewable power plants can be used to produce hydrogen via electrolysis. The gas can in turn be used to decarbonise industrial processes. However, not only a higher share of renewables can reduce carbon emissions in the long term, but also lower energy demand. In further developing and optimising technologies, applied energy research helps to improve the energy efficiency of infrastructures, buildings, residential areas and industrial production processes.
In order for these innovative approaches to be successful, it is crucial that all parts of society are involved since the transformation of the energy system affects on all aspects of our lives and the way we work. Whether it be citizens, public institutions, municipalities, energy suppliers or the skilled trades: we all need to support or even actively shape the energy transition in order to effect change. Researchers are developing solutions to ensure that all of the various groups in society are involved and their needs are addressed.
Making innovative technologies ready for the market
The core objective of the research funding provided by the Federal Ministry for Economic Affairs and Climate Action is to develop innovative, holistic solutions to the challenges of the energy transition and to bring them quickly to market. This is to be supported by a broad funding approach along the entire value chain and by focusing on the transfer of research findings into practice. Research funding in the energy sector is crucial for modernising the German and European economies and for maintaining Germany’s industrial competitiveness. The aim here is to reap the benefits of digitisation, to maintain and expand technological skills in the energy sector, and to improve export opportunities for innovative energy technologies. Based on its technology-neutral approach, applied energy research contributes to developing a wide range of market solutions for the transformation process in the energy sector and thus towards achieving the climate targets.