The energy system of the future will be fundamentally different from what we have today. The decisive factors will be a high level of energy security, effective climate change mitigation, and an economically viable energy supply. From an economic point of view, our energy transition will only be a lasting success if Germany remains a competitive base for industry.
The German government is already promoting research and development in the field of forward-looking energy technologies. One example is the , which supports companies and research establishments in their work to research and develop technologies for the energy supply of tomorrow. The Energy Research Programme is a strategic element of the Federal Government’s energy policy that aims to support this continuous research and innovation process.
The 6th Energy Research Programme defines the current principles and priorities for Federal Government funding for innovative energy technology. In this context, assistance is aimed primarily at technologies that meet the requirements of the energy transition. The funding for the key areas - energy efficiency and renewable energy - particularly focuses on technologies used to generate energy through wind and photovoltaic installations, the increase of renewable energies in the heating sector, energy-optimised buildings and neighbourhoods and industrial energy efficiency. It particularly focuses on systemic solutions for the integration of new energy supply technologies, new grid technologies and energy storage and sector coupling.
Further development of the 6th Energy Research Programme
The 6th Energy Research Programme will be continually developed in the “Coordination Platform for Energy Research Policy” under the leadership of the Federal Ministry for Economic Affairs and Energy. This on-going development is taking place on the basis of the following four strategy lines:
- More thematically interlinked and system-oriented research in areas of particular relevance to the energy transition (interministerial and overarching research initiatives for “energy storage”, “power grids for the future”, “solar building / energy efficient city” and ),
- Greater networking between research institutes in order to put research results into practice more quickly and greater European networking on issues with a clear European dimension through research cooperation,
- stronger coordination and cooperation with the Länder,
- implementation of a modern information system (EnArgus) in order to register and transparently present the various energy research activities, including those outside the Energy Research Programme.
Since launching the first Energy Research Programme in 1977, the Federal Government has invested around €12 billion to fund over 17,300 projects in the field of non-nuclear energy research over the last 40 years.
The Federal Ministry for Economic Affairs and Energy, being the lead ministry, is currently preparing a new Energy Research Programme. In autumn 2016, a broad participatory process was launched with actors from industry, science, civil society and the Länder. The results were presented to the public in February 2018.
The strategic flagship project “Trends and Prospects in Energy Research” provided academic support for the consultation process. On 25 July 2018, the report entitled “Technologies for Energy Transition” was handed over to Thomas Bareiß, Parliamentary State Secretary at the Federal Ministry for Economic Affairs and Energy. The findings of the study are now to serve as an academic basis for the 7th Energy Research Programme.
The Federal Government also funds the research and development of forward-looking energy technologies in areas outside its Energy Research Programme. These are projects in other programmes where the energy policy aspects are not the main focus, such as aviation research and the promotion of technology for small and medium-sized businesses.
Transparent and open energy research
The Federal Government’s “Research and Innovation” advisory service is the first point of contact for all matters related to the funding of research and innovation. It informs potential applicants about funding programmes and contact points and about the latest funding initiatives. Its services include a support service for companies to guide them through the system, tailored particularly to the needs of small and medium-sized companies.
2018 Federal Report on Energy Research: transparency for the Federal Government’s funding policy
The report is published every year and serves to give an extensive overview over the Federal Government's research promotion policy in the field of energy. Progress made and current trends in the field of research promotion are presented in the report in a transparent manner. This report also includes the latest figures from the European Research Framework Programme and data about energy research activities supported by the Länder. The figures on project funding contained in the Federal Report on Energy Research are also made transparent by .
In 2017, the Federal Government spent around €1.01 billion on research, development and the demonstration of modern energy technologies. The funding volume thus again rose compared with the preceding year (2016: €876 million). The largest proportion of the funds (around 80%) was invested in research on renewable energy and energy efficiency. This positive trend is continuing and is showing just how pivotal energy research is in paving the way to the energy transition.