News – What`s happening in energy research

read short description

In the BINE interview, Dr Rodoula Tryfonidou spoke about the future tasks of energy research in the energy transition.
© BINE Informationsdienst
Interview with Dr Rodoula Tryfonidou (BMWi)

The graph shows the learning curve for energy-efficient construction (based on the primary energy requirement in kWh/m² p.a.).
© Fraunhofer IBP/BMWi

Energy research on course to delivering the energy transition

The German federal government recently published the National Action Plan on Energy Efficiency. The concept is specifically aimed at winning over all actors in society in achieving greater energy efficiency. A few days later, the German Federal Ministry for Economic Affairs and Energy announced its research funding for the German federal government’s 6th Energy Research Programme. In the BINE interview, Dr Rodoula Tryfonidou from the responsible department in the German Federal Ministry for Economic Affairs and Energy talks about the contribution made by energy research in bringing about the Energiewende – Germany’s energy transition.

BINE Information Service: In December last year, the German federal government published its National Action Plan on Energy Efficiency (NAPE). How much energy research is there in NAPE?

Rodoula Tryfonidou: In addition to renewables, energy efficiency is the second pillar in the energy transition. With NAPE, the German federal government’s energy efficiency strategy, it has now been accorded the due importance it deserves. On the one hand, immediate measures such as funding programmes for the energy-efficient refurbishment of buildings are driving forward the efficiency. On the other hand, long-term processes – I’m thinking here of the Energy in Buildings and Districts research network – must support this. Indeed, energy research as a whole plays a very significant role in energy policy and forms part of NAPE. It is only through research that highly efficient technologies and concepts are developed in the medium to long term and brought to market, without which the energy and climate policy objectives would not be reached.

Does NAPE now represent a major opportunity for energy research to have its numerous and promising developments and concepts from previous years incorporated more into energy policy?

Rodoula Tryfonidou: Energy research has long been an integral part of energy policy and a strategic element in the energy transition. It is also very reasonable when findings from research activities are incorporated into the design and adaptation of regulatory measures such as rules and regulations. Regulatory policies are actually based in many areas on depicting the current state of technology, which in turn is constantly evolving through research.

Which aspects are you thinking about in particular?

Rodoula Tryfonidou: The building sector is a good example. There have been legal requirements for the energy-related quality of buildings since 1977. After the German Thermal Insulation Ordinance came the Energy Saving Ordinance (EnEV), which since its introduction has been amended and tightened several times. We have compared this development with the technological milestones achieved by the research into energy-optimised construction. It is clearly evident that the excellent results from research and development have enabled the standards to be tightened or made them at all possible.

Systemic approaches as the key to future research policy

Which new approaches to energy research will arise in the next few years as a result of the German federal government realigning its energy policy?

Rodoula Tryfonidou: The baselines for energy policy and energy research are the two main focus areas of energy efficiency and renewable energy. At the beginning of the new legislative period both areas were bundled together in the German Federal Ministry for Economic Affairs and Energy. This has major implications for energy research. We can now synergetically depict the entire energy chain in the research funding – right from the conversion, transport and distribution to the consumption in individual sectors. This enables us to pursue interdisciplinary and systems-oriented approaches much better.

What goals are you pursuing here?

Rodoula Tryfonidou: An integral process in energy research is particularly important here because during the next few years it will be less about maximising the development of individual components and more about focussing on optimising holistic systems. It is only in this way that we can transfer the excellent research results into practice on a large scale and achieve the necessary progress regarding efficiency.

How important is the German Federal Ministry for Economic Affairs and Energy’s new funding announcement for energy research? Which initial consequences are evident here?

Rodoula Tryfonidou: With the funding announcement we have presented the further development of the energy research programme in an application-oriented framework. It's about bringing the energy efficiency and renewable energy research areas more closely together. If you read the funding announcement, which is certainly very extensive, it is evident that there is a particular intention to utilise synergies in the systemically oriented focus areas. This is the first time that the Grids, storage and energy-efficient construction research fields have been organised so that they integrate energy efficiency, renewable energies and systemic aspects.

Major funding initiatives are currently being conducted in the grids and storage research fields. What sort of funding strategy do you have for the building sector?

Rodoula Tryfonidou: The building sector is a hotspot for the energy transition. This accounts for about 40 per cent of total energy consumption in Germany. There is therefore a considerable need to accelerate the increase in the energy efficiency of buildings and districts. On the other hand, a better integration of renewable energies can also make an important contribution. However, this can only succeed if innovative solutions are developed and rapidly brought to market. A holistic, systemic view of the building and district sector opens up new possibilities here.

What impact does this have on research policy?

Rodoula Tryfonidou: In general, energy research in future will concentrate more on systemic approaches with a greater focus on transferring the findings into practice. To drive this forward, last year we launched the “Energy in Buildings and Districts” research network. The focus here is on strategically networking stakeholders from industry and science and on intensifying the operational collaboration. At the first annual conference on 26 and 27 March in Berlin, we want to initiate a broad consultation process and discuss future funding strategies. Here I’m particularly thinking of the next funding initiative, “Solar Construction/Energy Efficient City”, which we are preparing this year in partnership with other federal government departments.

One of the key assumptions in NAPE and the funding announcement is that energy prices will rise. However, prices have now fallen for the first time in years. Will this have an impact on the energy research policy?

Rodoula Tryfonidou: The course adopted by the German federal government in terms of energy policy and energy research policy is the Energiewende – the energy transition. This process is based on medium- and long-term goals. The main tasks to increase efficiency and make greater use of renewable energies remain unchanged. The price level in recent months highlights, however, the need to also support research activities with the goal of reducing costs and to intensify the transfer of findings into practice. The strengthening of the networking and the system-oriented approach that we are already pursuing with more intensity will in future provide us with better possibilities for making new and innovative technologies cheaper and thus facilitate their way into the market.

What areas will energy research focus more on in future in contributing to the energy transition?

Rodoula Tryfonidou: Without a scientific contribution the energy transition, which is a task of society as a whole, will not be achievable. Research must provide the underlying basis so that the restructuring of the energy provision in Germany can be accelerated and placed on a secure footing. Energy research will therefore also remain in future a strategic tool for successfully implementing the energy transition.



BINE subscription

Subscribe to newsletter

Interview partner

Dr.-Ing. Rodoula Tryfonidou is an energy research advisor at the Federal Ministry for Economic Affairs and Energy. The energy research department is responsible for the German federal government’s energy research programme and is also responsible for the application-oriented project funding in the renewable energy and energy efficiency fields.

Berlin Energy Days conference

As part of the Berlin Energy Days conference, Dr Rodoula Tryfonidou is giving two lectures on 28 April 2015 on “The German federal government’s energy efficiency strategy in the building sector” and on “Solar thermal energy in buildings and districts – from research into practice”.