Go back to article: Turning energy around: an interactive exhibition experience

Energy transition(s) – a global challenge

Figure 1

Colour photograph of a visitor entering the doorway of a new exhibition

The entrance to the energie.wenden exhibition

Over the course of human history, humanity has repeatedly found new energy sources to exploit. These sources supplemented or replaced existing ones, constantly changing which resources we relied on most. Today, many countries are engaging for the first time in discussions about a deliberate and fundamental transformation of their energy supply.

During the COP21 in Paris, 195 countries agreed to limit global warming by increasing the share of renewable energy and raising the overall energy efficiency or even by reducing fossil fuel subsidies (REN21, 2016, p 17). The two main goals are to reduce COemissions and to achieve a fairer distribution of global emissions and resources. This politically guided transformation of the worldwide energy system is historically unprecedented. Whereas past energy transitions were generally based on exploiting new resources with a high energy density, the current transition is motivated by a broad political consensus. It is not meant to result in an increased energy demand but rather in a reduction of energy use (Kupper, 2016, p 15). While energy transition in general seems to be a unifying worldwide political goal, the paths to a sustainable energy system can be very different. The most notable difference between countries may be the role of nuclear energy. While Germany decided on a phase-out of nuclear energy, some countries judge nuclear energy to be an essential contributor to a sustainable energy supply system.

The exhibition energie.wenden reveals and disputes these different paths and invites visitors to actively take part in the political process of shaping energy transitions. This is reflected in content and design as well as in the exhibition title. Being a play on words energie.wenden can be interpreted in different ways: on the one hand it can be read as the plural of the German term Energiewende[1], indicating past and recent energy transitions. On the other hand, it is a direct invite to visitors to turn the existing energy supply system upside down. Hence the literal and more demanding translation of the exhibition title turn.energy.around.

This call to action does not only relate to the German Energiewende but rather to the global challenge of energy transition. It rests on general facts and processes applicable to various areas worldwide and takes on an international perspective. The exhibition opened on 14 February 2017 at the Deutsches Museum. After being on display until 19 August 2018 the exhibition will travel to other museum destinations worldwide.

Figure 2

Colour photograph of a bright exhibition space with display objects and visitors

The exhibition title energie.wenden – turned upside down above the exhibition entrance

Component DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.15180/180909/002