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Symposium 2013

Towards a Sustainable Energy Mix - Renewable Energies and Fracking

The Challenge

The use of renewable energies is supported by many countries, while the highest growth is observed in the power sector. By 2017 more than 70 countries are expected to deploy renewable energy technologies (IEA 2012a). Germany is a pioneer in using and developing renewable energy technologies. In 2011, renewable energies contributed to 20% of electricity and 10% of heat use (BMU 2012). Several policies measures have been put in place to realize a transition of the energy sector towards renewable energies (so-called “Energiewende”). While major energy producers as well as small scale producers have invested into renewable energy sources, the “Energiewende” also causes some challenges. Energy prices have increased considerably in recent years, partly caused by higher costs, mainly subsidies of renewable energies. New infrastructure is needed to cope with different spatial and temporal availabilities of energy. While the public generally favors the support of renewable energies in the context of climate change mitigation, social acceptance to implement projects (constructing new power grids, or plants) at local levels is critical.

Taking a look at the global level, renewable energies accounted for 13% of global primary energy demand in 2010, while about half of it stems from traditional biomass (e.g. wood, crop residues, animal dung) (IEA 2012a). Not only is the use of renewable energies growing rapidly: the global energy landscape has been changing in recent years due to the resurgence in gas and oil production in the United States of America (USA), and the use of unconventional gas sources via fracking (Hydraulic Fracturing) (IEA 2012b). Fracking has caused gas prices to decrease considerably in the USA. Since gas substitutes coal, the USA has increased its coal exports by 31% in 2011 (EIA 2013), causing the US-coal price to decrease by 20% (EIA 2013). Due to these trends in the USA, it is expected that global coal prices decrease (Destatis 2013). While the major user of the fracking technology is the USA, the exploitation of unconventional gas is currently been discussed in other countries. However, concerns arise regarding negative environmental effects of fracking (mainly water use and pollution, methane leakages).

Provided this background, what is the impact of cheaper fossil fuels due to fracking on the development of renewable energies on global scale? Lowpriced energy is beneficial for economic growth, but is this at the expense of local environmental conditions? What are trade-offs between increasing welfare and social acceptance of fracking and renewable energies? Why is the political culture in states like the USA open for new technologies like fracking or GMOs while in Europe skepticism dominates the public debate? Presuming that providing gas via fracking is less expensive than renewable energies, should fracking be also used in Germany to compensate higher costs of the “Energiewende”? Would the use of fracking hamper the development of renewable energies or could it be used as an interim technology en route to the longterm objective?

Part of the issue cluster "Achieving Sustainable and Inclusive Growth"

    Solutions

    Solution
    Symposium 2013

    Establish consistency of energy systems.

    Establish consistency of energy systems.

    Establish consistency of energy systems.

    Polity, Academia, Business, Civil Society
    Solution
    Symposium 2013

    Wake up the energy efficiency giant

    Wake up the energy efficiency giant

    Wake up the energy efficiency giant

    Polity, Academia, Business, Civil Society
    Solution
    Symposium 2013

    Diversify the use of different energy sources.

    Diversify the use of different energy sources.

    Diversify the use of different energy sources.

    Polity, Academia, Business, Civil Society
    Solution
    Symposium 2013

    Change the risk perceptions of long-term investors.

    Change the risk perceptions of long-term investors.

    Change the risk perceptions of long-term investors.

    Polity, Academia, Business, Civil Society

    Proposals

    Proposal
    Symposium 2013

    Elements of a Sustainable Future Energy Mix

    "Everything needs to change, so everything can stay the same!" This piece of wisdom is from Guiseppe Tomasi di Lampedusa's novel "The Leopard". In terms of the future energy mix this means that it has ...

    "Everything needs to change, so everything can stay the same!" This piece of wisdom is from Guiseppe Tomasi di Lampedusa's novel "The Leopard". In terms of the future energy mix this means that it has to be primarily sustainable. The German energy turnaround may be the role model. It attempts to find a quick path to a climate friendly and sustainable energy policy. But energy is also a production factor that determines a country's competitiveness. This urgently needs to be addressed, also in Germany. The energy mix is likely to play a key role in the security of supply. The

    Polity, Academia, Business, Civil Society