Retaining Our Current Lifestyles: A Conversation with Prof. Franz-Josef Brüggemeier

On August 18, I met with Prof. Dr. Dr. Franz-Josef Brüggemeier, Professor of Economic, Social, and Environmental History at the University of Freiburg. Prof. Brüggemeier studies environmental history, the history of sports, and the history of medicine. I went into his office hoping to better understand how the historical environmental movement has influenced the modern one in Germany.

During our conversation, Prof. Brüggemeier said that the connection between the historical and modern environmental movements is very complicated. While the historical environmental movement was conservative and focused on lifestyle change, the Energiewende is leftist and focuses on keeping our current lifestyle. Of course, there’s a fascinating history behind that simple statement.

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User Engagement and Social Norms: An Interview with Kristin Goldbach

On August 13, I headed back to Fraunhofer ISE to meet with Kristin Goldbach. Ms. Goldbach’s background is in environmental science and sustainable urban development, with a focus on participatory approaches. Her research examines user behavior pertaining to renewable energy and Smart Cities in different European settings; Ms. Goldbach’s master’s dissertation was about her work on the EU’s ORIGIN project, and she’s currently working on the EU’s iUrban project.

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Cities, Grids, and RE: A Meeting with Gerhard Stryi-Hipp

My final meeting at Fraunhofer ISE on August 12 was with Gerhard Stryi-Hipp. Mr. Stryi-Hipp is Fraunhofer ISE’s Coordinator for “Smart Energy Cities,” Fraunhofer ISE’s Head of Energy Policy, and President of the European Technology Platform on Renewable Heating and Cooling. He has worked on renewable energy and Smart City projects both domestically and internationally.

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Batteries and Tariffs: A Meeting with Dr. Matthias Vetter at Fraunhofer ISE

On August 12, I had the amazing opportunity to meet with three researchers at Fraunhofer Institute for Solar Energy Systems (Fraunhofer ISE). Fraunhofer ISE is Europe’s largest solar energy institute, and it’s located right in Freiburg!

My first meeting was with Dr. Matthias Vetter. Dr. Vetter is Fraunhofer ISE’s expert on autonomous power supplies, mini-grids, and electric storage systems. He is also the Fraunhofer ISE contact for the Smart Green Tower.

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Grid Flexibility and Cooperation: A Meeting with Christoph Heinemann at the Öko Institut

On August 11, I met with Christoph Heinemann at the Öko Institut. The Öko Institut is a non-profit association that conducts research and consultancy in the area of sustainability. Its Freiburg office sits in a zero-energy building in Vauban, next to some other Green City tourist attractions. (See the bottom of this post for pictures.) Mr. Heinemann is a Senior Researcher in the Öko Institut’s Energy & Climate Division, and has worked on a number of Smart Grid projects. More specifically, his work has centered around flexibility, the ability for the Smart Grid to balance energy demand with the intermittent supply from renewable energy sources.

Mr. Heinemann started by giving me background about the status of Smart Grids in Germany. There are many government-funded projects researching Smart Grids, but grid companies have not yet needed to change their approach. This is because Germany’s grid is mostly strong enough to support the current share of 20-25% renewable energy, and there are still many conventional power plants to provide flexibility. Therefore, companies don’t yet make money with demand-side management. Mr. Heinemann also told me that the German energy trading market actually comprises two markets: a balancing energy market where energy is offered for short term balancing, and a spot market where energy is bought and sold in the longer term. A company’s flexibility options lie in the balancing energy market. After Mr. Heinemann’s introduction, we began the Q&A.

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A Phone Call with Dr. Harald Schäffler

On August 10, I conducted a phone interview with Dr. Harald Schäffler. He has been involved in numerous energy research and consulting projects, and founded Schäffler Consult in 2011 to advise companies in the energy industry. Schäffler Consult is part of Smart Grids-Plattform Baden-Württemberg e.V., an association dedicated to implementing Baden-Württemberg’s Smart Grid roadmap. I called Dr. Schäffler to ask about his Smart Grid research and policy opinions.

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Intelligence or Common Sense? A Meeting with Peter Majer

On August 7, I met with Peter Majer, Director of the Office of Innovation and Ecology at Badenova. Badenova is a municipally-owned power company headquartered in Freiburg. Environmentally-minded, it purchases about 82 percent of its electricity from renewables and is also the largest energy efficiency consultant for municipalities in southern Germany. Although I initially contacted Mr. Majer to learn about Badenova’s role in the Smart Green Tower project, we ended up having an extremely informative conversation in addition about German energy culture, the Renewable Energy Act (EEG), what a Smart Grid is, and Badenova’s other Smart Grid projects.

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