Top 10Publicationsof 2018

This selection of the ten most important scientific publications of the Wuppertal Institute in 2018 provides an insight into the current international recognised research activities in the context of sustainability transformations.

Modeling and transdisciplinary methods

Holtz, G.; Xia-Bauer, C.; Roelfes, M.; Schüle, R.; Vallentin, D.; Martens, L.:
Competences of local and regional urban governance actors to support low-carbon transitions – development of a framework and its application to a case-study

In: Journal of Cleaner Production 177 (2018), pp. 846–856

Urban areas, being responsible for large shares of global greenhouse gas emissions, are important arenas for achieving global decarbonisation. However, the systemic challenge of decarbonisation requires deep structural changes – transitions – that take place across multiple scales and along entire value chains. The authors argue in this article that understanding the role of urban areas for global decarbonisation therefore requires consideration of their context and analysis of urban areas' contributions to transitions that extend past the individual urban area. They develop an analytical framework that proposes three principal ways, in which urban areas can contribute to low-carbon transitions, and ten competences that regional and local governance actors should have to support it. They apply this framework to the Cologne metropolitan area in Germany to demonstrate the ability of the framework to relate urban-scale activities to more encompassing low-carbon transitions.

Samadi, S.:
The experience curve theory and its application in the field of electricity generation technologies – a literature review

In: Renewable and Sustainable Energy Reviews 82 (2018), pp. 2346–2364

The experience curve theory assumes that technology costs decline as experience of a technology is gained through production and use. Sascha Samadi's (Wuppertal Institute, Research Group Future Energy and Mobility Structures) article reviews the literature on the experience curve theory and its empirical evidence in the field of electricity generation technologies. Differences in the characteristics of experience curves found in the literature are systematically presented and the limitations of the experience curve theory as well as its use in energy models are discussed. Results show that for some electricity generation technologies, especially small-scale modular technologies, there has been a remarkably strong (negative) relationship between experience and cost for several decades. Conversely, for other technologies, especially large-scale and highly complex technologies, the experience curve does not appear to be a useful tool for explaining cost changes over time. Samadi suggests that when analysing past cost developments and projecting future cost developments, researcher should be aware that factors other than experience may have significant influence.

Terrapon-Pfaff, J.; Gröne, M.-C.; Dienst, C; Ortiz, W.:
Impact pathways of small-scale energy projects in the global south – findings from a systematic evaluation

In: Renewable and Sustainable Energy Reviews 95 (2018), pp. 84–94

Access to clean and affordable modern energy services has been widely recognised as a significant factor for enabling social and economic development. Stand-alone systems and mini-grids are presumed to play an important role in the provision of sustainable energy to those people who currently lack access. Accordingly, an increasing number of small-scale energy projects are being implemented in developing countries and emerging economies. However, despite the large number of energy development projects, only limited evidence exists about the actual contribution they make to sustainable development.
The paper "Impact pathways of small-scale energy projects in the global south – Findings from a systematic evaluation" by Dr. Julia Terrapon-Pfaff, Dr. Marie-Christine Gröne, Carmen Dienst, and Willington Ortiz (Division Future Energy and Mobility Structures, Wuppertal Institute) addresses this research gap by providing a systematic assessment of three selected impact pathways based on the evaluation of over 30 small-scale sustainable energy projects. Applying a theory-based evaluation approach in the form of a contribution analysis, the aim of this research is to better understand if and how these types of technical interventions can create development outcomes and impacts. The results show that technological issues are often not the most decisive factor in achieving development effects, but that embedding the technology in a set of actions that address social, cultural, economic and environmental aspects is essential.

Viebahn, P.; Chappin, E. J. L.:
Scrutinising the gap between the expected and actual deployment of carbon capture and storage – a bibliometric analysis

In: Energies 11 (2018), 2319

For many years, carbon capture and storage (CCS) has been discussed as a technology that may make a significant contribution to achieving major reductions in greenhouse gas emissions. At present, however, only two large-scale power plants capture a total of 2.4 Mt CO2/a. Several reasons are identified for this mismatch between expectations and realised deployment. Applying bibliographic coupling, the research front of CCS, understood to be published peer-reviewed papers, is explored to scrutinise whether the current research is sufficient to meet these problems. The analysis reveals that research is dominated by technical research (69%). Only 31% of papers address non-technical issues, particularly exploring public perception, policy, and regulation, providing a broader view on CCS implementation on the regional or national level, or using assessment frameworks. This shows that the research is advancing and attempting to meet the outlined problems, which are mainly non-technology related. In addition to strengthening this research, the proportion of papers that adopt a holistic approach may be increased in a bid to meet the challenges involved in transforming a complex energy system. It may also be useful to include a broad variety of stakeholders in research so as to provide a more resilient development of CCS deployment strategies.

Wanner, M.; Hilger, A.; Westerkowski, J.; Rose, M.; Stelzer, F.; Schäpke, N.:
Towards a cyclical concept of real-world laboratories

In: disP – The Planning Review 54 (2018), pp. 94–114

The transformative research approach of real-world laboratories (RWL) has recently attracted attention in German sustainability science. Some definitions and understandings have been published, but guidelines and procedural quality criteria for establishing and running a RWL are still missing. To address this gap, this article has two aims. First, it aims to derive key components of RWLs from the current discourse on RWLs and similar, but more elaborated research approaches. Second, it aims to transfer these key components into a comprehensive research practice. This practice is illustrated by the RWL process in the project "Well-Being Transformation Wuppertal" (WTW).


Climate-, Energy- and Resources Transition

Hermwille, L.:
Making initiatives resonate: how can non-state initiatives advance national contributions under the UNFCCC?

In: International Environmental Agreements 18 (2018), pp. 447–466

The international Climate Change Conferences are exciting and challenging days not only for politicians. During the annually Conference of the parties (COP) tens of thousands of people and a lot of transnational initiatives gather to protest for a climate policy that recognises the need for concrete action.
The paper "Making initiatives resonate: how can non-state initiatives advance national contributions under the UNFCCC?" explores the roles of non-governmental players during the conference. In a second step, the paper analyses how successful transnational initiatives can resonate within the intergovernmental negotiation process in order to inspire more ambitious climate action also on the part of national governments. It traces existing processes and the Paris Agreement with a view to identifying inroads for a more direct feedback from non-state initiatives and derives recommendations.
The paper by Lukas Hermwille, Research Fellow in the Division Energy, Transportation and Climate Policy at the Wuppertal Institute, is part of his doctorate thesis with the title "Climate Change as Transformation Challenge – Perspectives on the Role of International Governance". The article was published in the journal "International Environmental Agreements: Politics, Law and Economics" and can be found in the link below.

März, S.:
Assessing the fuel poverty vulnerability of urban neighbourhoods using a spatial multi-criteria decision analysis for the German city of Oberhausen

In: Renewable and Sustainable Energy Reviews 82 (2018), pp. 1701–1711

Tackling fuel poverty has become an increasingly important issue on many European countries' political agendas. Consequently, national governments, local authorities and NGOs have established policies and programmes to reduce the fuel poverty vulnerability of households. However, evaluations of such policies and programmes show that they barely reach those who are most in need. This raises the question of how fuel poor homes can be more effectively identified and targeted to ensure that limited local and national budgets are used to benefit those who most need help. Area-based approaches, which pinpoint spatial units highly affected by fuel poverty due to their specific characteristics, offer an opportunity for creating more tailored policies and programmes.
This analysis by Steven März (Wuppertal Institute) offers insights into the spatial pattern of fuel poverty within a city and thus provides an opportunity to channel efforts towards households in those neighbourhoods most in need. It also demonstrates that a trade-off between ecological and social targets should be considered in the development of future policies for tackling fuel poverty.

Teubler, J.; Buhl, J.; Lettenmeier, M.; Greiff, K.; Liedtke, C.:
A household's burden – the embodied resource use of household equipment in Germany

In: Ecological Economics 146 (2018), pp. 96–105

The paper describes patterns of resource use related to German households' equipment. Using cluster analysis and material flow accounting, data on socio-demographic characteristics, and expenditures on fuel, electricity and household equipment allow for a differentiation of seven different household types. The corresponding resource use, expressed in Material Footprint per person and year, is calculated based on cradle-to-gate material flows of average household goods and the related household energy use. Our results show that patterns of resource use are mainly driven by the use of fuel and electricity and the ownership of cars. The quantified Material Footprints correlate to social status and are also linked to city size, age and household size. Affluent, established and/or younger families living in rural areas typically show the highest amounts of durables and expenditures on non-durables, thus exhibiting the highest use of natural resources.

Wagner, O.; Wiegand, J.:
Prepayment metering: household experiences in Germany

In: Renewable and Sustainable Energy Reviews 98 (2018), pp. 407–414

Private electricity consumption accounts for a significant proportion of a household's total expenditure. At the same time, the supply of electricity is an important prerequisite for a humane existence and for social participation in modern societies. The availability of electricity can therefore also be regarded as the basis of social organisation.
The increase in household expenditure on electricity in Germany by around 95 percent between 1997 and 2017 has led to increasing indebtedness on the part of utilities, resulting in almost 344,000 power cuts (around 14,000 more than in the previous year) according to the Federal Network Agency's monitoring report, which became public last week. Many households suffer from increased electricity costs and an increasing loss of real income. Taking inflation into account, the purchasing power of the money available to them decreases. The increase in state transfer payments in Germany was not sufficient to keep pace with the rise in energy costs. If one compares the development of the various incomes with the development of electricity prices in recent years, it becomes clear that pensioners and recipients of unemployment benefits are particularly hard hit by the rise in electricity prices.
In order to prevent the electricity supplier from interrupting the electricity supply due to high arrears, numerous energy suppliers offer their customers so-called prepaid meters: Customers* can top up their credit in the same way as with mobile phones. The amount charged is reduced to the extent that electricity is used for electrical applications.
Since the phenomenon of energy poverty in Germany is still quite recent, the number of prepaid meters is also low. Experience in this area is correspondingly scarce and political awareness of the problem is also low. For this reason, Oliver Wagner, Project Co-ordinator of the Energy, Transport and Climate Policy Division at the Wuppertal Institute, and Julia Wiegand, Graduate Research Assistant at the Wuppertal Institute, have published a paper in which they present the results of Germany's first scientific survey on experiences with the use of prepaid meters.


Sectoral Transition: Mobility

Glensor, K.:
Development of an index of transport-user vulnerability, and its application in Enschede, The Netherlands

In: Sustainability 10 (2018), 2388

An index of accessibility-based vulnerability is created based on a definition of transport-user vulnerability regarding transport accessibility created for the EMPOWER project, in order to assess the project's key performance indicator of the inclusion of vulnerable people in the project's scheme. The objective of the index is to account for various individual vulnerability aspects, but also for the "multi-dimensionality" of vulnerability, i.e. individuals may be vulnerable because of one specific aspect (e.g., disability), or they may be vulnerable because of multiple aspects which, if assessed in isolation, wouldn't classify the individual as vulnerable. Users of the project scheme in the Dutch city of Enschede are surveyed on, inter alia, their vulnerability based on this definition, according to their income, mobility budget, physical mobility, age, gender, living situation, nation of birth, and education. According to individual questions, 1 to 54 percent (single parents and females, respectively) of respondents have some level of vulnerability. According to the index, 23 to 36 percent of respondents can be considered to be vulnerable. Suitably modified for local conditions, the index is relevant to cities, especially quickly developing cities where congestion reduction is or has been a priority, insofar as it offers a way of measuring and monitoring the vulnerability of the users of their transport system. Finally, steps to adapt the index to other settings (cities or countries) are discussed.


Further Top Ten

The annual selection of important scientific publications is available here for the following years: