Category Archives: Energy Transformation

Summary from Response Thematic Event: Sustainable Energy System – Who Will Lead the Way?

In this public event of the Response Doctoral Program, organized by the Energy System Science Center, GreenBuzz and Zurich-Basel Plant Science Center at Siemens in Zug one question was in the focus: how do we get to a sustainable energy system?

For sustainable energy systems the innovative technologies are existing, but we have to combine them in the most sustainable way to decarbonize our future. The questions are what business model change, political regulations and societal adaptation are needed and inevitable and helped us to answer the questions “What steps we should take?”, and “Who will lead the way?”

9 Response doctoral students presented and discussed their research to representatives from the energy sector, companies and the public. They presented their research on green energy models, biofuels, semiconductor efficiency, managing hydropower dams, carbon capture and storage or the future of electrical transport.

From the keynotes:

Kristina Orehounig, Empa draw attention to the housing infrastructure that needs to be cooled in summer and heated in winter due to climate change. For this CO2 emission-low systems need to be combinations of multiple renewable supply technologies in small decentralized networks in neighbourhoods.

Kaja Hollstein, Swissgrid pointed out challenges in the future when the grid system is operated with renewables. In winter demand for heating is highest while supply by photovoltaic drops in several countries at the same time. In this case there will be no import market that can balance the shortages of energy.

Ilonka Zapke, Siemens showed the Wunsiedel blueprint for our energy future. Energy comes from renewables and is stored in one of the largest batteries worldwide. Battery storage might be one solution to energy shortages in the grid system.

Voices of the doctoral students on the event:

Different people have different perspectives on the same research problem. I think it will help me to formulate my research targets through the societal aspect as well.

Participants were asking about the implications of the findings [for society] and about additional aspects that could be included.

More on the research of Arnau Aliana | Manuel Belanche | Linda Brodnicke | Sudesh Dahal | Susanne Rhein | Katrin Sievert | Bessie Noll | Dabwiso Sakala | Fei Wu

This event is part of RESPONSE Doctoral Programme (DP) «RESPONSE – to society and policy needs through plant, food and energy sciences» is funded by the European Union’s Horizon 2020 research and innovation program under the Marie Skłodowska-Curie Grant Agreement No 847585.

Response Doctoral Programme: European Policy for CCS networks

Linda Frattini contributed to a policy report that evaluates possible governance frameworks for establishing a European CCS network. In principle, CCS projects are eligible for support through different European and national funding tools, but more ambitious support schemes for CCS projects through national governments seem to be necessary.

From the report:

CCS technologies are poised to help attain the EU’s 2050 net-zero target, mainly by effecting emission reduction in energy-intensive industries and underpinning carbon removal solutions. For this to happen, there is a need for a carefully planned and well-coordinated scale-up of emerging CO2 transport and storage networks, and for national governments to come forward with. This is particularly important for the Just Transition of many industrial regions and clusters in Central and Eastern Europe, where CCS can complement the deployment of renewables, especially in places where clean electricity is not available at the scale and within the timeframe required by the EU’s 2030 and 2050 emissions reduction targets.


Carbon capture and storage (CCS) is the process of capturing CO2 either through post-combustion capture [1]  [FL1] or via direct air capture[FL2]  [2], transporting it and storing it for centuries or millennia in deep geological formations or sequestering in mineral carbonates from CO2.

For how society is currently structured and, as a result of intense consumer consumption, there are carbon-intensive sectors, such as manufacturing industries or waste-to-energy plants, which are very hard to decarbonise and where concentrated CO2 emissions from the combustion of fossil fuels seem unavoidable. They have significant process emissions (i.e. emissions resulting from the chemical reactions involved in the manufacturing process), which cannot be avoided by switching fuel sources. The most relevant manufacturing sectors for post-combustion capture are iron and steel production, chemicals production (particularly ammonia, used to make fertilisers), refined petroleum products and cement and lime production. As point-source emitters, these industries may require carbon capture to reach net-zero emissions.

Read the full report at:

Citation: Eivind Berstad, Todd Allyn Flach, Linda Frattini, Ana Šerdoner, Lina Strandvåg, Nagell Michał Wendołowski (2021). Current state of CCS technologies and the EU policy framework. With contributions of Justus Andreas, Reinout Debergh, Mark Preston Aragonès.

 [1] Explanation of post-combustion capture (PCC)

[2] Example of industry doing direct air capture (DAC): Video from Climeworks

Featured image is provided by Global CCS Institute:

Linda Frattini is currently fellow in the RESPONSE Doctoral Programme (DP) «RESPONSE – to society and policy needs through plant, food and energy sciences» funded by the European Union’s Horizon 2020 research and innovation program under the Marie Skłodowska-Curie Grant Agreement No 847585.

Her research project on developing a source-to-sink value chain for Swiss industrial carbon dioxide via a holistic approach at ETH Zurich is together with Prof. Marco Mazzotti, Department of Mechanical and Process Engineering and in collaboration with Dr. Jan-Justus Andreas, Bellona Europa (Brussels, Belgium).

Could “advanced” nuclear technologies support low-carbon energy strategies?

Response Doctoral Programme

“No” says Bessie Noll et al. (2021) in a synthesis paper as renewable energy technologies have significant advantage over current non-traditional nuclear reactor designs.

Taking insight foremost from a 2021 study by the Union of Concerned Scientists (UCS) on “advanced” nuclear reactors, their synthesis examines three non-traditional nuclear reactor designs based on three UCS defined evaluation criterion—safety and security risk, sustainability, and nuclear proliferation potential—as well as one additional criterion added newly, “economics”.  Proclaimed advantages of non-traditional over traditional reactors are also included in an “Expectation vs. Reality” rapid-fire comparison.

Some of the arguments:

  • Technologically immature non-traditional reactors have to compete with renewable energy technologies which are already today drastically cheaper on a $/kWh basis and have much steeper learning curves.
  • Even with optimistic assumptions for deployment timelines, non-traditional reactors will likely be outcompeted in deployment by renewables and grid-scale battery storage (in some cases, they already are)—relatively more mature technologies that are readily being deployed today
  • It is highly unlikely that non-traditional reactors will be able to ramp-up construction fast enough to stay in-line with climate targets.
  • Nuclear reactors built in a modular fashion are not spared the curse of high capital cost and long construction times in practice.
  • Non-traditional reactors introduce new safety issues that will require extensive testing and analysis. The technology itself is too early in its development stage to be certain of all possible safety issues.

Citation: Bessie Noll, Tonja Iten, Fabian Lüscher (2021). A SYNTHESIZED ANALYSIS OF THE STATE OF THE “ADVANCED” US NUCLEAR INDUSTRY. Schweizerische Energiestiftung.

Bessie Noll is currently a fellow in the RESPONSE Doctoral Programme (DP) «RESPONSE – to society and policy needs through plant, food and energy sciences» funded by the European Union’s Horizon 2020 research and innovation program under the Marie Skłodowska-Curie Grant Agreement No 847585.

Other insights on the role of nuclear power and the ongoing transformation towards renewables in Japan can be found in her blog contribution: “When institutional incumbents hinder energy transitions: Japan’s energy story”, Energy Blog @ ETH Zurich, ETH Zurich, March 29, 2021,

Her research project on the energy transition in the transport sector – assessing the impact of European and national policies on future drive technology mixes, energy use, and emission pathways — at ETH Zurich is together with Prof. Tobias Schmidt, Department of Humanities, Social and Political Sciences at the Energy Politics Groups and in collaboration with the Swiss Energy Foundation (SES), Switzerland.