We have the energy!

Web special Fraunhofer magazine 4.2021

Sun, wind, heat – ready for the transition

The weather has turned cold in Germany. Winter is closing in and the message is clear: Energy is precious – and like all precious things, it has a cost. Drivers are feeling the truth of that, as steep price increases pummel them at the fuel pumps. In fact, everyone who wants to stay warm in their own home is feeling it. Gas prices have soared, leaping by more than 400 percent in the April to November period alone. But the pressure to introduce smart energy management and saving technol­ogy is not the only thing that’s growing. Thanks to its significantly lower prices, renewable energy is giving individual consumers ever more opportunities to cover their energy needs in a cheap, eco-friendly way. For the community as a whole, however, the climate is what’s at stake here. According to the target laid down in the German Climate Protection Act (Klimaschutzgesetz, KSG), Germany is to become a climate-neutral country by 2045, meaning that its net emissions balance would have to be reduced to zero. The act also set an intermediate target of reducing green house gas emissions by at least 65 percent in comparison to 1990 by the year 2030. There is some good news: “We can achieve climate neutrality by 2045,” says Dr. Andrea Herbst. “But it will take serious effort,” the research fellow at the Fraunhofer Institute for Systems and Innovation Research ISI is quick to add.



The worldwide energy generation capacity of photovoltaic systems is growing rapidly, jumping by 38 percent a year on average. Although the global installed capacity was only 100,000 kilowatts in the early 90s, solar power had already reached a capacity of 700 million kilowatts by 2020. If this growth continues, the installed capacity will reach around 60 billion kilowatts in 2035.


Wind energy

Wind energy is currently the biggest climate-friendly energy source. In 2020, wind farms produced 132 terawatt hours of electricity in Germany. For the first time, the proportion of wind power surpassed the sum of all fossil sources, with wind supplying the largest share of Germany’s energy mix. What’s more, wind energy plants are particularly effective when it comes to avoiding greenhouse gas emissions.



Hydrogen could play an important role in the energy transition by serving as a means of storing excess wind or solar energy. Electrolysis can be used to produce emission-free hydrogen from water.


Geothermal systems

The heat energy stored in the earth’s crust can be used for heating, cooling and generating energy.


Germany’s path to climate neutrality by 2045

Dr. Andrea Herbst, Fraunhofer ISI
© Johannes Arlt
A bright future: Dr. Andrea Herbst takes a closer look at Germany’s path to climate neutrality in a study for the Ariadne project.

In collaboration with more than 50 re­searchers from various institutions, Dr. Herbst recently published a study for the Ariadne project, focusing on Germany’s path to climate neutrality by 2045. In brief, the study found that renewable elec­tricity, green hydrogen and green e-fuels are set to become the most important energy carriers. Furthermore, renewable energy production must be expanded massively by 2030. Then, it would actually be possible to eliminate our use of coal as an energy source by 2030 – something the government parties laid down as an “ideal” target in their coalition agreement.

The researchers analyzed six different scenarios for achieving our climate targets, using four technological focus areas: direct electrification, hydrogen, synthetic e-fuels such as methane and an energy mix. In addition to Fraunhofer ISI, various other members of the Fraunhofer Cluster of Excellence CINES participated in the study, including the Fraunhofer Institute for Solar Energy Systems ISE, the Fraunhofer Institute for Energy Economics and Ener­gy System Technology IEE and the Fraun­hofer Research Institution for Energy In­frastructures and Geothermal Systems IEG.

The targets are ambitious. Industrial CO2 emissions would have to be reduced by 57 percent by as early as 2030. “High-tem­perature processes involving furnaces and steam generation are especially challeng­ing, and so are the emissions that are produced by chemical reactions during the processes,” explains Dr. Herbst, who is heading up the Ariadne work package on the industry transition. This means there is an urgent need to make investments and replace old plants with new plants before their time runs out. What’s more, the industry sector must switch over from previously cheaper energy sources to ini­tially more expensive, sustainable sources such as electricity or hydrogen. This will only be possible if the regulatory frame­work is significantly expanded, going far beyond the measures that have currently been agreed on and implemented – to be precise, this expansion would have to cov­er CO2 pricing, research and investment funding, closing the profitability gap and regulatory law. Another important factor is that electricity and hydrogen must be available around the clock and in suffi­cient quantities. “Security of supply will play a major role here,” says Dr. Herbst. The targets for the heating transition are also quite a stretch. By 2030, the annual building renovation rate must reach 1.5 to 2 percent, five million heat pumps must be installed and around 1.6 million buildings must be newly connected to dis­trict heating networks. In short, to make Germany climate neutral in less than 25 years, the new German federal govern­ment must hit the ground the running in a lot of areas.

The Fraunhofer Cluster CINES went fur­ther in exploring the question of how the energy transition can succeed and conducted an energy system analysis – resulting in seven recommendations for the new German federal government. For example, the experts advised creat­ing a clear framework for the industry sector, which would in turn serve as a means of enabling companies to invest in carbon-neutral production technolo­gies. They also recommended developing possible means of carbon capture and storage, and pointed out that sharply accelerated expansion in wind and solar energy would be the core element of the energy transition.



“Strong financial support is needed”

In the interview: Minister of Research, Bettina Stark-Watzinger, talks about her ambitions, her curiosity and her plans for research in Germany.


“Research has already achieved great things”

In the interview: Manuela Schwesig, Minister President of Mecklenburg-Vorpommern. She believes renewable energy can make her region more attractive to the industry sector.


Fraunhofer Energy Alliance

The Fraunhofer Energy Alliance is the portal to the research program and service offer of the Fraunhofer-Gesellschaft in the fields of energy technology and energy industry.


Fraunhofer Cluster of Excellence Integrated Energy Systems CINES

The Cluster of Excellence Integrated Energy Systems CINES addresses the central technological and economic challenges of the energy transition. The aim is the system and market integration of high shares of variable renewable energies into the energy system. To this end, CINES combines the competencies of the institutes for applied energy research of the Fraunhofer Gesellschaft.


Fraunhofer »ENIQ – Energy Intelligence by Fraunhofer«

Fraunhofer ENIQ is the front end of Fraunhofer energy research in Berlin. Here we discuss technological and systemic innovations for energy system transformation with actors from politics, business and society. Come by on site or digitally for exciting conferences, digital formats and expert sessions and experience the latest use cases from the Fraunhofer Energy Institutes in the room.