Frequently Asked Questions
What was the motivation behind establishing Agora Energiewende?
With nuclear power being permanently phased out and renewable energies growing apace, energy policy in Germany has entered a new phase. The old controversies are a thing of the past: there is a broad social and cross-party consensus concerning long-term political goals. It is no longer a question of whether the energy system will be overhauled in favour of renewables, but of how to go about doing this.
Germany has a great opportunity and a huge responsibility towards the rest of the world to make its energiewende a success – after all, the world’s fourth largest economy has embarked on a project showing that it will be possible to build an energy system almost entirely on renewables. To achieve this, it needs the expertise and dedication of everyone involved. However, we still need a joint definition of the challenges, a clear understanding of the possible solutions and a concrete concept of the next steps. Drafting all of these – in conjunction with the relevant players – is a challenge that must be tackled in the next few years.
Stiftung Mercator and the European Climate Foundation (ECF) established Agora Energiewende to support this process.
What specific challenges is Agora Energiewende focusing on?
Agora Energiewende’s work concentrates on the electricity sector in Germany, whilst keeping a close eye on its interfaces with Europe and the sectors of heat and mobility. Agora Energiewende focuses on the following questions:
- What are the possible strategies and approaches to expanding the various forms of renewable energy which could be used to achieve the legislative objectives effectively and efficiently?
- How can the residual power plant fleet based on conventional energy sources be reconciled with the growing use of renewables?
- What market design is needed to complete the necessary overhaul of the energy system?
- To what degree can and should security of supply be ensured at a decentralised level and to what extent do we need large-scale networks?
- How would the electricity grid be designed at transmission and distribution network level and what instruments can we use to overhaul and extend the grid?
- How can we create a system of incentives for load management which makes good economic sense?
- How will we store energy in the future if large quantities of wind and solar electricity are fed in due to weather conditions and supply exceeds demand more and more frequently?
- What is the ideal way to coordinate generation, transmission, storage and load management in terms of environmental considerations, security of supply and total cost?
- How can the German energy system best be incorporated into the European energy market?
Is Agora Energiewende supposed to develop some kind of master plan?
There are different routes we could take to make the switch to renewable energies. We want to highlight sound methods which have been analysed scientifically and make it clear what consequences each option would have. These methods need to be developed, carefully considered, discussed and understood. They need to be coherent within themselves. We need a robust approach. That will be our contribution to the energy reform – then it will be up to the policy makers to decide.
What significance does the energiewende in Germany have from a European and a broader international perspective?
Germany has pledged to convert its electricity production virtually completely to renewable energies by 2050 and to reduce its greenhouse gas emissions by 80 to 95 per cent compared with figures from 1990. Its long-term nature and ambitious targets are what make the energiewende a pioneering undertaking on a global scale. They also make it a project for an entire generation. If Germany – the world’s fourth largest economy – manages to completely convert its energy system and make it a success story in economic terms too, it will have a huge global impact.
What does Agora actually mean?
An agora (agorá, Ancient Greek: ἀγορά) was a central place in Ancient Greek city states used for celebrations, gatherings and markets. At the same time, it was an important social institution and, as such, a hallmark of the Greek polis. It was more than just a marketplace – it was where the city’s affairs were debated and negotiated.
In the context of modern-day Germany, Agora Energiewende wants to create a forum where key questions of energy policy are discussed in an open and trusting environment.
How exactly does Agora Energiewende operate?
In terms of specialist expertise, scientific know-how forms the basis for Agora Energiewende’s work. Relevant issues are proactively identified and dealt with. The organisation has a sizeable research budget and access to a scientific network that can be mobilised ad hoc which enable it to do this.
Agora Energiewende aims to prepare the ground for Germany to set the right course regarding additional policies over the coming years. For this reason, our work focuses on maintaining dialogue with key energy policy makers about how the targets at the heart of the energiewende can be met.
Selected political decision makers from national and state level, strategic players from the private sector and civil society, researchers and other opinion leaders regularly meet as the Agora Council.
In addition to this, the organisation holds a number of workshops, congresses and conferences dedicated to relevant issues.
What does Agora Energiewende actually do?
As previously mentioned, the Council of the Agora is the focus of what we do. The members of the Council discuss which concrete tasks need to be completed in order to move ahead with the Energiewende, and in which order. This open and trusting dialogue aims to promote a shared vision.
These discussions are based on analyses and studies published by the team of Agora or by research institutes commissioned by Agora. As such, we work together closely with scientists and energy experts in the formulation of our research hypotheses.
Science and research are not ends unto themselves – our focus is always on their relevance for practical applications. This is why we are intensively involved with the debate on energy policy, holding our own events and expert consultations, and publishing our work.
Are the results of Agora Energiewende's work publicly available?
Yes. All scientific reports along with the analyses and statements prepared by the Agora staff are available to the public on our website.
Several other agencies have already been set up to advise on the energiewende. What contribution does Agora Energiewende make?
Agora Energiewende boasts a unique concept: selected political decision makers from national and state level, strategic players from the private sector and civil society, researchers and other opinion leaders regularly meet as the Agora Council. They engage in a confidential dialogue about the challenges and implementation of the energiewende, which is held under the Chatham House Rule. This work is supported by a sizeable research budget and a network of researchers. By virtue of this setup, research assignments can be awarded to answer questions promptly in a targeted manner for studies and background analyses.
In addition to this, Agora Energiewende liaises with other initiatives.
Who manages Agora Energiewende?
Dr. Patrick Graichen is the executive director of Agora Energiewende; he heads up a team of approx. 30 members of staff at the Agora office in Berlin.
What role does the Agora Council play?
The Agora Council brings together key players in the energy policy debate. Council meetings are all about open, trusting discussions and dialogue – underpinned with the relevant scientific expertise. In this way, we want to help advance new models for solving the fundamental challenges posed by the energiewende.
Meetings of the council are not open to the public and are held under the Chatham House Rule which means the identity of the speaker may not be revealed when quoting statements made at the meetings. In doing so, the members of the Agora Council can discuss issues freely and confidently.
What budget does Agora Energiewende have available?
Agora Energiewende has a core budget of around 14 million euros financed by foundations for the period 2012 to 2017. 15 million is available here for the period from 2017 to 2021. In addition, third-party funds are used to finance individual projects.
Agora Energiewende in brief
- Project Duration: 2012 to 2017 (phase 1) | 2017 to 2021 (phase 2)
- Core budget: 14 million Euros (phase 1) and 15 million Euros (phase 2)
- Team: A staff of approx. 30 led by Dr. Patrick Graichen
- Legal form: Programme area of Smart Energy for Europe Platform (SEFEP) gGmbH
- Funders: Mercator Foundation and European Climate Foundation