20. January 2015


By Reinhard Haas

Energy is in the news. Since  the first oil price shock in 1973 energy topics has been in the headlines almost continuously. While for a long time oil was dominating in the last decade also renewables have been put increasingly into this picture.
The last ten years were a huge success story for renewable energy at least from two perspectives:

  • The energy produced from renewables increased considerably: from 13% in  2005 to 23% (preliminary) in 2013.
  • The sustainable energy community gained more than 200 new competent and highly qualified new members by means of graduates of the NewEnergy course.

Looking back I have to state that I am very proud to have been involved in both success stories. Firstly, it was a great honour for me when Professor Drobir, the founder and first academic director of the course asked me to become his successor. The first interviews as major academic director I hold for the 3rd class, starting in 2007. In the meantime we have almost 170 students who have finished their master theses and graduated.

Secondly, in parallel in this period renewables, especially wind, solar and biomass has virtually skyrocketed. In this time our group at the TU Vienna we conducted a series of research projects dealing with the promotion of RES. Indeed, in the EU 28 electricity generation from renewable energy sources (RES) has increased from about 13% in 2005 to about 23% in 2013.

In recent years the electricity generation from especially “new” renewable energy sources (RES) excluding hydro has been increasing from less than 3% in 2005 to about 13% in 2013. Especially the increasing shares of variable RES from wind and photovoltaics (PV) in Germany have changed the usual pattern of electricity markets in Western Europe.
<media 36556 - - "BILD, EU-28 Electricity generation from RES, EU-28_Electricity_generation_from_RES.png, 75 KB">Figure 1. Development of electricity generation from all renewables (including hydro) in EU-28 between 1990-2013, in TWh (Source: EUROSTAT)
<media 36557 - - "BILD, RES sector shares in EU-28 final energy consumption, RES_sector_shares_in_EU-28_final_energy_consumption.png, 97 KB">Figure 2. Actual RES shares for the EU-28 from 2005 – 2012 and NREAP targets (planned shares) (Source: Fraunhofer ISI, NREAP, Fraunhofer ISI, EUROSTAT)</media>

Europe has further ambitious targets which are documented in the so-called National renewable energy action plans (NREAPs). As can be seen from Figure 2 the recent developments are very close to the planned trajectories of the NREAPs and for electricity and heat they were even above it in 2013.  
Yet, also aside from these European success stories ban-breaking development  have taken place. Leading wind power countries today are China with about 80 GW and USA with about 60 GW followed by Germany (about 35 GW) by mid of 2014. (http://news.discovery.com)

The largest markets regarding installments of Photovoltaics are currently in Asia. In 2013 China connected 11.3 GW of PV systems to its grid. The second largest market was Japan with 6.9 GW. The U.S. was third with 4.75 GW (http://solarindustrymag.com).

Looking forward the prospects are bright, yet to really fulfill the transition to a sustainable energy system and economy still a lot of barriers has to be removed. Some of these are:

  • the integration of RES into the electricity and heating grids,
  • the further development of proper promotion schemes for RES,
  • intensifying R&D for the use of RES in the transport which is currently the most problematic end use sector;
  • start to build up infrastructure for hydrogen and electricity in the transport sector   
  • restructuring of almost the whole building sector towards passive or even plus energy buildings;
  • the redesign of the system for charging CO2  

Summing up, I think there are still many challenges left for future research and implementation of projects. These changing challenges are also considered in the design of our master programme. We have a continuous adaptation of the content of the lectures, we always look for the most attractive country modules and we try to continuously provide opportunities for our alumnis to benefit from these new offers.

Finally, I would like to state that these changing challenges offer a lot of possibilities for future research, for implementation of new case studies and projects and me some new start-ups in the fields of renewable energy, energy efficiency and other sustainability options. In this context my final message is that I look forward to use these opportunities for new future oriented activities, maybe to some extent with you, the alumnis and students of the Renewable Energy course!

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