Institute for Technology Assessment and  Systems Analysis (ITAS)

Kopernikus: ENSURE

Project description

General description of the Kopernikusinitiative

The so-called Kopernikus initiative launched by the Federal Ministry of Education and Research (BMBF) is so far the largest research initiative in the field of energy transition (“Energiewende”) in Germany. The initiative is named after Nicolaus Copernicus, mathematician and astronomer, who discovered the heliocentric model of the universe in the 16th century and whose name became a byword for the age of science. The main objective of the Kopernikus funding is to stimulate comprehensive and integrative research on the energy transition in order to make the current system in a safe, affordable, and clean way fit for the future. The consideration of social, environmental, and economic aspects is essential for the transformation of the energy system. To meet these requirements, the Kopernikus projects combine technology-oriented research with systemic and transdisciplinary approaches. Thus, the projects focus on research areas showing both a high degree of complexity and a high potential for the successful transformation of the energy system. The Kopernikus projects ENSURE, P2X, SynErgie, and ENavi which have already started research key areas of the energy system in close cooperation of science, industry, and civil society.

  • The ENSURE project addresses new grid structures to transport and supply high shares of renewable energy in a reliable and flexible way.
  • The P2X project focuses on options to store energy in gaseous, substantial, or liquid form.
  • The SynErgie project researches technologies for adapting industrial processes to the new energy supply system.
  • The ENavi project analyses the interaction of the energy system sectors power, heat, and mobility as a complex, interlinked, and dynamic system.

Hence, the four Kopernikus projects cover key areas and challenges for transforming the (German) energy system. ITAS is involved in all four projects and contributes its expertise in technology assessment and systems analysis in different ways.

General description of ENSURE

The Kopernikus project ENSURE with its comprehensive systemic approach aims at the research and provision of new energy grid structures for the energy transition. The transformation process of the current energy landscape is vital for reaching the federal government’s goals related to energy policy and climate control by 2050. On the one hand, these changing framework conditions call for extensive adjustments of the electrical energy supply; on the other hand, they require a coupling of different energy carriers and thus a coupling of the energy, gas, heat, and traffic sector. Within the framework of ENSURE the energy system is optimized with regard to all relevant energy carriers and the related infrastructure. To this end, the project partners’ main goal is to decide how centralized and decentralized elements of energy supply have to be designed in the overall system to guarantee a reliable and secure energy supply regarding technical and socio-economic perspectives as well as aspects of acceptability. The focus here is not only on the research of novel stable concepts of systems management based on innovative information and communication technologies, but also on the establishment of new technologies for power transmission, production, acquisition, distribution, and processing of data/information. The second main objective is the practical implementation of the developed systemic concepts and the testing of new technologies in a large-scale technical demonstration project. Based on the results from basic research in the first project phase, selected aspects will be analyzed in a testing environment (phase 2) before the multi-modal network demonstrator will be constructed in the third project phase. This large-scale demonstrator is supposed to be mainly funded by the consortium’s industry members and to exemplify in a test region with several tens of thousands inhabitants how the future energy supply of an urban system and its surroundings could look like.

ENSURE is organized in five clusters:

Cluster 1: Socio-economic framework conditions (cluster leaders: KIT & HanseWerk AG)

Cluster 2: System structures (cluster leaders: RWTH Aachen & Siemens AG)

Cluster 3: System management (cluster leaders: Siemens AG & RWTH Aachen)

Cluster 4: New technologies (cluster leaders: ABB AG & KIT)

Cluster 5: Design of a network demonstrator (cluster leaders: HanseWerk AG & TenneT TSO GmbH)

ITAS within the ENSURE project

ITAS is responsible for cluster 1. This cluster aims at the development of socially accepted scenarios which provide an overall societal framework for the work performed in the Kopernikus project. Combined with the findings from the other clusters, the knowledge thus obtained should provide the funding body and other stakeholders with valuable suggestions for the further organization of the energy transition. The integration of both the ENSURE partners and representatives from societally relevant stakeholder groups like environmental or energy associations is vital for the acceptance of the developed scenarios. The close cooperation with the Kopernikus projects ENavi, P2X, and SynErgie regarding the developed framing of the scenarios is also intended.

Cluster 1 is divided into four work packages; ITAS is mainly involved in WP 1.1 (storylines), WP 1.3 (model-based scenario analysis), and WP 1.4 (assessment & socio-economic framing; here also cluster leader).

The ITAS works in ENSURE pursue two objectives at the technical level:

First of all, the cross-impact balance (CIB) method is used to identify the socio-technical framework of possible storylines as a basis for the formulation of context scenarios. This should not only support the discussions in the stakeholder workshops, the developed context scenarios should also be used as input for the model-based energy scenarios.

In addition to that, the scenarios’ implications for the work in clusters 2-5 have to be interpreted and evaluated. The work in cluster 1 can be considered rather macroscopic. This means that storylines and scenarios are typically designed for Germany as a whole and as part of a European development and are therefore rather highly aggregated. Clusters 2-5 in contrast are more geared to meso- and microscopic questions. They mainly deal with technological-economic challenges of the energy transition at the levels of technical systems and components or markets. To make the results from cluster 1 usable for clusters 2-5, we need a “translation” and assessment of the scenarios’ implications.



Dr. Witold-Roger Poganietz
Karlsruhe Institute of Technology (KIT)
Institute for Technology Assessment and Systems Analysis (ITAS)
P.O. Box 3640
76021 Karlsruhe

Tel.: +49 721 608-28180