Energy transition for all

The introduction by Michael Sailer, CEO of the Oeko-Institut

The transition to sustainable energy is a major societal venture. Back in 1980 the Oeko-Institut described the challenges of an energy supply “without oil and uranium” in its groundbreaking study that coined the term “energy transition” (Energiewende). The issues today are the phasing out of coal, the further expansion of renewables, energy efficiency and climate change mitigation. In short, we need an energy supply that is clean, affordable and safe – for everyone in our society. To achieve this, the German state must create the right incentives and it must invest. And that means that we members of the public must help finance the re-shaping of our energy system and our economy. From our point of view at the Oeko-Institut, it is important to consider how the burden is distributed so that ultimately everyone can afford clean electricity, access sustainable transport and adopt an environmentally friendly lifestyle.

As I see it, environmentally friendly behaviour does not depend on how much one earns. There are people of limited means who act sustainably and wealthy people who take little interest in the environment or in climate issues. Protecting the climate and the environment is therefore always partly a question of attitude: it involves living consciously, buying sustainable products, saving energy and sometimes doing without things. In everyone’s life there are lots of potential starting points – for the energy transition, the transport transition and the nutrition transition.

If we turn our attention to policy-making, this must involve creating the “right” incentives for investment, defining the guiding principles of a renewable infrastructure and coming up with a holistic vision. Only then can positive social impacts kick in and only then will all members of society benefit from the energy transition.

This issue of eco@work looks at this topic and at what we are doing in this field. I hope you enjoy reading it and wish you all the best for 2019.


Michael Sailer

CEO, Oeko-Institut