A delegation of three RLI researchers – Catherina Cader, Kathrin Goldammer, and Philipp Blechinger – has been travelling to the USA from April 16th to 20th for a joint workshop with the Renewable and Appropriate Energy Laboratory (RAEL) at the University of California, Berkeley. The workshop brought together experts from the energy and digital sectors in order to discuss the possibilities of sustainable energy access with regard to digital solutions. The agenda also included visits to Silicon Valley companies that are involved in the topic.
The trip took place in context of the Berkeley-Berlin Energy Access Group (BBEAG) , that was founded as a cooperation between RLI and RAEL in 2017. Both institutions are involved in research regarding electrification strategies based on renewable energy for developing regions and both feel committed to the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) No. 7: “Ensure access to affordable, reliable, sustainable and modern energy for all”. RLI and RAEL have thus agreed on joining forces in the BBEAG.
This research trip has been the first personal meeting in context of the cooperation. The RLI-travel team used the five days in California to deepen their exchange with RAEL about energy system modeling approaches and discuss current research regarding energy system modeling and rural electrification. Similarities and differences in the modeling tools used by RLI and RAEL were identified and improvements were discussed.
The second objective of the visit was to open the BBEAG up to businesses and government bodies in California. Presentations from academia and the private sector that were held during the workshop showcased current research, data needs, and business models for increasing energy access towards SDG7. The business perspectives also revealed the huge potential of data created by companies (such as consumer behavior, ability to pay, or electricity consumption) for improving electrification planning. The workshop concluded with an interactive discussion round, where potential research proposals were developed by identifying real-world problems and deriving research questions.
After the workshop, the RLI representatives used the remaining days to follow invitations by the middle management of Silicon Valley firms to present the institute’s research and the status quo of the energy transition in Germany. This gave them the opportunity to discuss issues that were already part of the workshop in more detail. Specific projects of the companies, such as the implementation of stand-alone solutions in rural regions in Africa by “Off-Grid Electric”, related very well to RLI’s research topics, which led to a fruitful exchange.
“It was a pleasure to meet Prof. Dan Kammen and his team at UC Berkeley and discuss our research efforts for a shared goal”, says Philipp Blechinger, Head of the Off-Grid Systems team at RLI. “We will intensify our collaboration for sure and are already planning next steps. We will collaborate on projects regarding the transition of energy and transport sector as well as on decentralized energy supply for rural regions and we might even be able to make research stays at Berkeley and RLI respectively possible for our teams.”
The research trip and BBEAG Workshop were funded by the Transatlantic Climate Bridge partnership between Germany and the United States. Behind-the-curtain insights into the whole trip, offered by the RLI travel group, can be found on Twitter.