The Thematic Platform "Green Transformation and Energy Systems" bundles related research from all WIFO Research Groups, which is often carried out in cooperation with other research institutions in interdisciplinary teams.
One research focus is the identification of policy instruments that are needed to steer the transformation and their optimal design to exploit synergies between ecological, social and economic objectives and minimise trade-offs. Research questions include which measures are necessary to achieve the emission reduction targets, and at the same time avoid potential negative impacts on vulnerable groups and increase the competitiveness of Austrian companies.
Another focus of WIFO's work in this area is the effects of the transformation on different economic sectors and the analyses of the macroeconomic effects of shifting towards a circular economy or individual measures to reduce emissions at the national or regional level.
The Green Transformation also requires the implementation of adequate monitoring systems that reflect aspects of sustainability and quality of life that are not included in GDP (i.e., Beyond GDP indicators). Relevant work by WIFO in this area includes, for example, the development, operationalisation and fore- and nowcasting of indicators for sustainable development.
The Green Transformation represents one of the greatest current socio-economic challenges. A CO2 reduction in line with the climate policy targets (e.g., the EU greenhouse gas emission reduction target of 55 percent for 2030 or the decarbonisation targets of Austria and the EU by 2040 and 2050 respectively) requires transformative measures in all sectors of the Austrian economy and society. These include an increase in energy and resource efficiency, a shift to renewable resources as well as lifestyle changes.
The transformation represents a challenge for both companies and private households, with diverse expected changes. This applies to different sectors of the economy, with different direct and indirect impacts from climate policies and different preconditions for emission reductions, as well as to different population groups, e.g., depending on their income, housing situation or other socio-economic factors. A broad mix of instruments is required for the transformation, including both market-based instruments (e.g., carbon pricing, i.e. taxation and emissions trading, promotion of renewable energies) and regulatory measures (e.g., a ban on fossil heating systems) as well as information and communication measures.
Fossil fuels account for a large share of anthropogenic greenhouse gas emissions in Austria and the EU. Accordingly, the redesign of energy systems plays a key role in the Green Transformation. Energy prices have already risen significantly in 2021, and the war in Ukraine has further intensified this trend. While natural gas so far has been considered a bridging technology in the decarbonisation of energy supply and industry, the focus has now shifted to an early phase-out of this energy source (or the diversification of supply sources) in order to ensure security of supply and competitiveness.