Towards a Global Energy Transition

At the Berlin Energy Transition Dialogue 2017, decision-makers and experts from 80 countries discussed ways of securing the world’s future energy supplies. But what role does dena – the German Energy Agency – play in this?

‘There are as many energy transitions as there are countries.’ With these words, Lisa Davis, Member of the Managing Board of Siemens from the USA, announced her participation in this year’s Berlin Energy Transition Dialogue (BETD), while at the same time summing up one of the challenges faced on the way to a successful global energy transition.

Whoever sits on the BETD’s green energy transition sofa is committed to the global energy transition. Here, Thembisile Majola, South Africa’s Deputy Energy Minister, at the BETD 2017. Incidentally, not only does the sofa travel around the world, it even tweets @greensofa_betd.

Political and industry representatives from 80 countries met for the third time at the Foreign Office to discuss this crucial issue. They are all united by a common goal now: the Paris Agreement. Yet each country is confronted with different tasks. Through international exchanges like the BETD, countries can learn from each other, create synergies and together generate a safe, sustainable and affordable global supply of energy that will contribute to the attainment of the climate targets.


This year, around 2,000 government officials, energy experts, and industry, administrative and community representatives met in March at the BETD. In her opening address, the Federal Minister for Economic Affairs, Brigitte Zypries, together with the Foreign Minister, Sigmar Gabriel, declared Berlin the ‘capital of global energy transition’ for another week.

“Energy efficiency and renewables can contribute to a 90 per cent reduction in CO2 by 2050.”

Adnan Z. Amin, Director-General of the International Renewable Energy Agency

As a basis for dialogue, the International Energy Agency (IEA) and the International Renewable Energy Agency (IRENA) presented their new joint study, ‘Perspectives for the Energy Transition’. It affirms that global energy transition is feasible, affordable and ecologically as well as economically sound. ‘Energy efficiency and renewables can contribute to a 90 per cent reduction in CO2 by 2050,’ according to Adnan Amin, Head of IRENA. However, he urged haste, stressing that hesitancy in implementation would drive costs up. Fatih Birol, General Secretary of IEA added that the achievement of the climate targets no longer required more money, but a different distribution of money – more investment in energy efficiency and renewables, and less in fossil energy sources.

dena – in dialogue and on-site

Together with the German Renewable Energy Federation, the German Solar Association and the consultancy company, eclareon, dena organised the BETD on behalf of the Federal Government; because, as the ‘agency for applied energy transition’, it brings together in dialogue all parties involved from politics and industry, advises them on matters relating to energy policy, and drives the energy transition forward internationally.

In doing so, it gains experience from specific projects on-site. For example, through the Renewable Energy Solutions Programme, dena and the Federal Ministry for Economic Affairs and Energy (BMWi) support German firms in the exportation of climate-friendly energy solutions. So far dena has initiated 75 pilot projects in 58 countries, from solar roofs in South Africa and Taiwan to a hybrid system of small wind and photovoltaics in Mongolia and an ecological wood heating system in Japan.

Sharing these experiences at international level and initiating collaborative projects were particularly important to dena when designing the comprehensive programme for the BETD. In numerous guided tours before and after the conference they offered participants from around the world the chance to find out about innovative energy companies and energy projects in Berlin and the surrounding area.

How can politicians boost investment in climate protection?

Barbara Hendricks Berlin Energy Transition Dialogue BETD

“Politicians must send clear signals. That’s the only way that companies and investors can be guided.”

Federal Environment Minister, Dr Barbara Hendricks

There is a need for plants and projects of this kind all over the world right now. However, actual implementation mostly fails due to a lack of capital. So ways of boosting investment in renewables and energy efficiency were among the key issues at the conference. The Federal Environment Minister, Dr Barbara Hendricks, appealed to all participants: ‘Politicians must send clear signals. That’s the only way that companies and investors can be guided.’

Also, as an interface between politics and industry, dena organised two so-called business-to-government dialogues prior to the conference – this year with Colombia and Iran. The purpose of the dialogues is to bring government representatives and entrepreneurs in the respective countries together with potential investors. High-ranking delegations from both countries presented their energy markets and described current conditions for renewable energy and energy efficiency.

Colombia’s Energy Minister, Germán Arce, explained basically that his country was suffering from the effects of climate change – a key factor being El Niño. He advertised for financial backers and experts for the expansion of alternative energy sources, as there was great potential for hydroelectric power in a country which has an abundance of rivers.

Energy Minister, Germán Arce, during the business-to-government dialogue, Colombia

dena has been active for a long time in the Latin American country. In 2015 it helped the Bavarian company Smart Hydro Power to gain a foothold abroad in the Neiva region on the Rio Magdalena. The aim of Managing Director Karl Kolmsee is to introduce clean energy to the most remote regions on Earth. Where an old diesel engine once stood, his hydrokinetic turbine now pumps water onto the fields of the ‘El Manso’ rice farm. Here the turbine works like a kind of windmill under water, says Kolmsee. Combined with a photovoltaic system it cuts costs by a third and CO2 emissions by 11,500 kilogrammes a year. ‘The system is particularly suited to agricultural businesses in locations that are not connected to the state electricity grid,’ explains dena’s Project Director, Gabriele Eichner. ‘For many countries it’s a reliable means of supplying electricity, which can pay for itself in just five years.’

Hydroelectric power for Colombia

Efficiency first

The most important prerequisite for the success of projects like these, and ultimately for the Paris Agreement itself, is energy efficiency. All of the participants of the energy transition dialogue agreed on this. Since the need for housing in towns and cities will increase in the future, the building sector above all will play a key role, said Florian Pronold, Parliamentary Undersecretary in the Federal Environment Ministry.

During the conference, dena coordinated a meeting of the Global Alliance for Buildings and Construction (GABC) to discuss this topic. The alliance would like to encourage countries to develop their own energy efficiency strategies and combine existing international initiatives. 50 international experts and government representatives discussed strategies and measures aimed at reducing energy consumption in buildings.

Berlin: hotspot of energy transition

Another highlight of the BETD was the presentation of the ‘Start Up Energy Transition Award’ at the BETD evening event. In front of approximately 750 conference attendees, as well as visitors to the parallel Tech Festival organised by dena, dena presented awards to six out of an original 500 fledgling companies from 66 countries for their promising business ideas related to energy transition and climate protection.

The BETD team are delighted about the success of the event and are of course looking forward to the Berlin Energy Transition Dialogue 2018.

Minister Zypries was proved right. For a whole week Berlin once again became the hotspot of global energy transition – where international dialogue reached a new dimension. ‘We had a terrific blend of international experts and ministers from all around the world, as well as a lot of start-ups which brought a breath of fresh air to the debate,’ was the verdict of dena’s Chief Executive, Andreas Kuhlmann. ‘The global energy transition is moving in the right direction We’re already looking forward to BETD 2018. The more we exchange ideas and information, the more we can learn from each other and avoid each other’s mistakes.’

Copyright for all pictures except Colombia: @BETD 2017; www.energiewende2017.com.

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