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The History of the Institute of Energy Economics at the University of Cologne


The Institute for Energy Economics is founded at the University of Cologne. Theodor Wessels, Professor for Economics and Political Science and member of the 'Freiburger Kreis' (Freiburg Circle) surrounding Erwin von Beckerath, is appointed as Director. The establishment of EWI is due in no small measure to the determination of Fritz Burgbacher, then a board member of Rheinische Energie AG (Rhenag). The war years and their aftermath do hamper scientific progress, however. 


The University of Cologne continues teaching shortly after the German capitulation. Around 1,450 students register. However, the destruction caused by the war continues to have an impact. Around a third of the students are enlisted to carry out repairs to the pipes to enable the chemistry and physics departments to be supplied with gas once again. 


EWI starts its work. Fritz Burgbacher is able to attract the first sponsors for EWI, including RWE and Ruhrgas, but also the City of Cologne. As, according to Burgbacher's denazification file, he had offered assistance and shelter to those who suffered political persecution in his position of responsibility in the management at Rhenag, Burgbacher remained initially as assistant, and then as honorary professor at the Institute. Theodor Wessels also holds on to his position as Director. One of the first tasks is to restore the library which has been largely destroyed by bombs during the war. Stocks are now acquired from archives, factory and university libraries as well as from private collections from all over Germany. 


The first EWI workshop on energy economics takes place in January on Burg Wahn. Just a year later, the precursor to the EWI/F.A.Z. Energy Conference is relocated to the premises at the university due to the large number of attendees. Instead of 70 guests, as in the first year, over 200 interested parties from politics, industry and the unions register to discuss the future development of energy management in West Germany.


Dr. Karl-Heinz Blömer becomes Managing Director of EWI. Blömer, who had worked previously with Alfred Herrhausen, later spokesman for the board of Deutsche Bank, expands the range of topics handled by the institute for the gas and electricity industry to include the oil industry, in response to Germany's rapid advances in motorisation. EWI therefore now steps up to analyse and advise on the whole of Germany's energy industry.


EWI carries out a sector analysis for the first time as part of the first 'energy enquiry' by the Federal Government and predicts growth in energy consumption, energy production and energy infrastructure using the data it has collected. With a budget of 2.5 million Deutschmark and three and half years' work, the project is intended to shape West German energy policy until the 70s. Even the European Coal and Steel Community, the precursor to the European Union, calls upon EWI several times during this period for reports. 


The “Verein ehemaliger Schüler des Energiewirtschaftlichen Instituts e.V.”, an association of former students of the Institute of Energy Economics, is set up. The aims of the association that has been known as EWI Alumni since 2010, is the regular exchange of science-based experience between EWI, energy economics in practice and the Institute's former students through presentations, workshops and excursions.


When he retires Theodor Wessels also passes the post of director of the Institute for Energy Economics to his successor Prof. Dr. Hans Karl Schneider, who already carried out research at EWI in the early years, as the first and then only assistant to the institute director Wessel's newly founded EWI. Following the first oil crisis in the 70s, the focus of scientific work at EWI shifts to questions about energy efficiency. Under Schneider's leadership, the Institute also works on the enquiry into the future of energy policy of the Federal Government. 


Professor Schneider retires at the end of the year. He is replaced by Prof. Dr. Carl Christian von Weizsäcker. High prices and the debate over the threatened shortage of crude oil remain strong drivers for research at EWI. Politics and companies increasingly search for strategies on alternative energy sources in order to reduce Germany's dependency on oil imports. The team at EWI grows to 20 under Weizsäcker's leadership. Von Weizsäcker also introduces Prof. Dr. Walter Schulz as new Managing Director, succeeding Prof. Dr. Dieter Schmitt, who held this position since 1971. 


A new chapter opens in Germany's history with the fall of the Berlin Wall and reunification that affects all areas of life, and of course, the energy industry. In the years that follow, EWI deals increasingly with energy management in the 'new' federal states: infrastructure, cost development, competition and resources.  


The world's first climate change summit, the UN's Conference on Climate Change, takes place in Berlin. Climate change and the reduction in greenhouse gases have already become the focus of national and international politics in the preceding years. Just two years earlier, EWI had already produced a survey on behalf of the enquiry commission 'Schutz der Erdatmosphäre' [Protection of the Earth's Atmosphere] by the German Federal Government that dealt with the impact of the intended European internal electricity market. Further research projects on the subject of climate protection follow.


The energy sector experiences a mini revolution with the amendment to the Energy Management Act coming into force in Germany. The EU Directive on the electricity market, whose aim is to deregulate the market, is implemented nationally. The Federal Ministry of Economics had already commissioned extensive surveys on the structure of Germany's energy industry. EWI was also involved in the debate over deregulation of the energy markets with studies, such as 'Möglichkeiten wettbewerblicher Reformen in der Energiewirtschaft' [Possibilities of competitive reforms in the energy industry] (1993), 'Economic Consequences of Increased Competition in Energy Markets (electricity and gas) in the European Union: A Scoping Study '(1996) or 'Konzentration und Wettbewerb in der deutschen Energiewirtschaft' [Concentration and competition in the German energy industry] (1997).


Carl Christian von Weizsäcker hands over management of EWI to Prof. Dr. Axel Ockenfels. Under his leadership, EWI analyses the consequences of emissions trading in several studies. EWI also develops scenarios on the development of energy markets up to 2030 and analyses the effects of alternative extensions to nuclear power plant operations in Germany. 


The Renewable Energies Act, which came into force in 2000, is amended. In the same year, EWI publishes an extensive survey on the macroeconomic, sectoral and ecological effects of the Renewable Energies Act. Renewable energies, such as sun, water and wind have not been an integral part of EWI's research up to this point.
PD Dr. Dietmar Lindenberger, who has been a senior researcher at EWI since 2000, is appointed as Managing Director in April.


EWI Director Axel Ockenfels is awarded the Leibniz Prize and concentrates on his own research from this time on. With the support of the Stifterverband für die Deutsche Wissenschaft, and as part of bringing forward the appointment for a position that had become vacant, the Faculty of Management, Economics and Social Sciences at the University of Cologne creates a new professorship for the management of EWI.


Prof. Dr. Marc Oliver Bettzüge replaces Prof. Ockenfels as director of EWI. A little over a year later, the sponsorship body for EWI signs a new outline agreement on support for EWI with the state of North-Rhine Westphalia, University of Cologne and E.ON and RWE. The new funding enables considerable expansion to EWI, allowing it to appoint three new full professors alongside the Director. The Institute sets itself the task of becoming a leading institute for research into energy economics in Europe. Soon the new institute is in need of more space. In 2009, EWI moves off the university's campus and into the Alte Wagenfabrik in Cologne's district Ehrenfeld, a former factory for electric cars. 


To decide whether to continue the operation of German nuclear power plants, which the new German Federal Government, consisting of the parties CDU/CSU and FDP, agreed upon in their coalition agreement, the Federal Ministry of Economics and the Federal Environment Ministry commissioned a report to be prepared by EWI and two other research institutes. In the energy scenarios for an energy concept by the Federal Government, the institutes carry out calculations on a variety of possible lifetime extensions of existing nuclear power plants on electricity prices, the electricity mix and the security of supply. 


Prof. Dr. Felix Höffler is appointed Vice Chairman of the EWI board. The regulation economist devotes himself to the development of basic research. PD Dr. Christian Growitsch had joined the EWI as Director of Applied Research already in September 2010, following his work as Head of the Department of Energy Markets and Energy Regulation at the WIK in Bad Honnef. 


Prof. Dr. Marc Oliver Bettzüge's formerly endowed chair of Energy Economics (2007 - 2012) is fully funded by the University of Cologne from March 2012 on, taking over from the Deutsche Stifterverband für die Deutsche Wissenschaft (community's innovation agency for the German science system).


With the "Study of Electricity Trends 2022 - Stress Test for the Energiewende" [English Summary] EWI has subjected the "Energiewende" to a comprehensive stress test. It examines key influencing variables with respect to their impact on the energy policy goals of cost efficiency and supply reliability. Influencing variables include the extension of the transmission systems, increased energy efficiency, the construction of new power plants, the expansion of renewable energies, and price trends for fuels and CO2.


PD Dr. Christian Growitsch retires from the management board of the EWI to join the management board of the HWWi. 


EWI has got a new structure: In June the new - also charitable - sister company "ewi Energy Research & Scenarios" goes into operation. In this company the applied research and the varied third-party financed projects for economy and politics are bundled. Managing Directors are Dr. Christina Elberg and Dr. Harald Hecking. The EWI ("Energiewirtschaftliches Institut an der Universität zu Köln") focuses on fundamental research and doctoral training.


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