Every year, the Wuppertal Institute presents the ten most important scientific, peer-reviewed publications from the previous year. With this selection from 2022, the Wuppertal Institute aims to provide an insight into the state of its internationally perceived research work against the background of its transdisciplinary research approach.
Five articles from 2022 were selected in the area of climate, energy and resource transition. These include, for example, the case study "More than recycling: the potential of the circular economy shown by a case study of the metal working industry", which Wiebke Hagedorn, who worked at the Wuppertal Institute until the end of 2022, prepared with co-authors. The results show that implementing the three overarching strategies of the circular economy – narrowing, closing and slowing down – contributes to a significant increase in material efficiency.
Clemens Schneider, Senior Researcher in the Research Unit Sectors and Technologies at the Wuppertal Institute, dedicated his article "Steel manufacturing clusters in a hydrogen economy" to the question to what extent the transition to hydrogen-based primary steel production will lead to changes in location and a different quality of vertical integration of steel production in northwestern Europe. The model he developed identifies production stocks in the steel industry, current spatial structures, as well as investments in specific technologies and in specific production locations in order to simulate possible future scenarios.
As steel is an essential part of modern economies, Dr. Lukas Hermwille, Prof. Dr. Stefan Lechtenböhmer, Annika Tönjes, Prof. Dr.-Ing. Manfred Fischedick, Clemens Schneider and Wolfgang Obergassel from the Wuppertal Institute investigated in their commentary "A Climate club to decarbonize the global steel industry" the concept of a climate club for decarbonisation and transformation of the steel sector in international cooperation. They conclude that a sectoral climate club, engaged in intensive transnational cooperation, can facilitate this transformation.
Dr. Philipp Bendix and Dr. Holger Berg from the Research Unit Digital Transformation at the Wuppertal Institute took, together with the co-authors, a closer look at the extent to which the circular economy can be implemented in the German building sector. In their article "Circular economy for durable products and materials: the recycling of plastic building products in Germany – status quo, potentials and recommendations", they determined the potential of take-back and recycling systems for building products as well as the use of plastic recyclates in building products based on a market study in Germany. The authors recommend, among other things, a recyclate quota for films of building product packaging.
But the gap between internationally agreed climate targets and tangible emission reductions is also large. Therefore, Dr. Lukas Hermwille and Wolfgang Obergassel from the Research Unit Global Climate Governance at the Wuppertal Institute, together with other authors, have investigated how a more effective climate policy could be realised by United Nations’ actors. In their article "From regime-building to implementation: Harnessing the UN climate conferences to drive climate action", they come to the conclusion that the World Climate Conference could advance the implementation of the Paris Agreement primarily by promoting sectoral climate protection measures and by involving national ministries and non-party stakeholders more closely in the formal conference processes.
Contributions to modelling and transdisciplinary methods
Model-based scenario analyses of future energy systems often come to different results and conclusions when different models are used. Based on a systematic comparison of nine power sector models with sector coupling in "Modeling flexibility in energy systems: comparison of power sector models based on simplified test cases", Tomke Janßen and Christine Krüger from the Research Unit Systems and Infrastructures at the Wuppertal Institute, in cooperation with other researchers, investigate the effects of the different representation of technologies, optimisation approaches and other model features. Especially in the case of battery-powered electric vehicles, hydropower in reservoirs, electricity transmission and demand response, the choice of modelling approach made a serious difference.
In view of the growing market for sustainable finance, Jens Teubler and Sebastian Schuster from the Research Unit Product and Consumption Systems at the Wuppertal Institute investigate how theory-based logic models can be used to map issuers' sustainability claims to quantifiable indicators. Using a case study, they conclude in their article "Causal strands for social bonds" that combining a theory-of-change with a Bayesian analysis is an effective method to test the plausibility of sustainability claims and mitigate biases.
Article on consumer behaviour
Sebastian Schuster, Dr. Manuel Bickel, Felix Buchborn and Prof. Dr. Melanie Speck from the Research Unit Product and Consumption Systems at the Wuppertal Institute, together with other authors, investigated in their article "Do meal boxes reduce food waste from households?" to what extent meal boxes can contribute to reducing the different types of food waste (preparation, cooking and plate waste) in households. Their findings: On the one hand, meal boxes reduce overall food waste compared to traditionally cooked meals, but on the other hand, preparation and plate waste increase.
People who produce and consume green electricity themselves are becoming increasingly important for the energy transition. In Germany, the number of these prosumers has risen rapidly since 2000. Dr. Chun Xia-Bauer, Florin Vondung, Dr. Stefan Thomas and Raphael Moser from the Energy, Transport and Climate Policy Research Division examined various economic, social and technological challenges in their article "Business model innovations for renewable energy prosumer development in Germany". They shed light on how these challenges could be addressed through the prosumer-oriented, innovative business models, power-to-power electricity trading and aggregation of small prosumers.
Felix Große-Kreul from the Research Unit Structural Change and Innovation at the Wuppertal Institute uses a survey-based study on consumer acceptance of smart energy technologies (SETs) to show that the growing smart home market will not increase the acceptance of SETs. Instead, he suggests the introduction of "adjustable green defaults" in his paper "What will drive household adoption of smart energy?". Despite the wide applicability of smart energy offers and the growing smart home market, there is a lack of consumer acceptance which leads to the sustainability potentials not being exploited.
All articles are available on the publication server open access in the links below.