Issue: March 2017, 40 years of the Oeko-Institut – Special anniversary issue


Key trajectories

Digitisation, autonomous driving, renewable energy

The world is going to change over the coming years, decades and centuries. Some developments we can already foresee, some will surprise us, and some expected events may not occur or may occur in ways that differ from those we had anticipated. Three examples illustrate how everyday life may change in future.


Digitisation has already turned our world upside-down. Not so long ago hardly any household had digital technology: now we can barely imagine life without a computer and smartphone. We use them to store our holiday photos, communicate with our friends or pay for a metro ticket. But this trend has some undesirable consequences for humans and the environment – for example, there is the mining of the necessary resources and the problem of inadequate recycling. To limit these impacts, electronic equipment must be used for longer. Other questions that arise from digitisation relate to data security and social issues: will people become increasingly alienated from each other or will digital media link us together more strongly, locally and internationally? And how can digitisation help to conserve energy and resources and protect the environment?

Digitisation and the environment – an important issue for the Oeko-Institut and an area in which strategies for a sustainable policy on information and communication technology (ICT) are being developed.

Autonomous driving

Although ridiculed by many as an impractical fantasy, autonomous driving is well on the way to becoming a realistic prospect. It opens up all sorts of opportunities for sustainable and convenient living, with potential to increase the use of carsharing, reduce the need for parking facilities in cities, improve links with rural areas and boost transport efficiency. But autonomous driving could also result in increased traffic and increased emissions. In a few years or decades, will we really no longer drive ourselves about? What regulatory framework is needed to ensure that the potential of autonomous driving to improve sustainability is harnessed?

The Oeko-Institut’s Resources & Transport Division is studying the impacts of autonomous driving on the future of transport.

Renewable energy

We can’t get enough of them: solar and wind, or in short, renewable energies. We would like to see an energy supply based entirely on renewables. How will that work? In what ways does the expansion of solar, wind, etc. pose challenges for the organisation of the energy market and the actions of those involved in it? How will energy use and storage be coordinated? These questions and others need to be answered – not just for Germany, but against the backdrop of a European electricity market.

The Oeko-Institut is working on a variety of renewable energy projects. Unleashing their full potential is a key interest of researchers in all the institute’s divisions.

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