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From bachelor's thesis to conference presentation

Isabel Feucht (IB 2020) presents her bachelor’s thesis at the 38th International Conference of the Society for System Dynamics (ISDC)

By Isabel Feucht & Florian Kapmeier

In her bachelor’s thesis in the bachelor’s programme in International Business, Isabel Feucht investigated why the demand for photovoltaic systems in Germany has fallen so sharply after a huge boom, what the factors influencing demand are and how further expansion of PV could be possible. The thesis provides valuable information to better assess past and future measures in energy policy. Isabel Feucht’s paper was so successful that she and her supervisor Professor Dr Florian Kapmeier submitted it to the 38th International System Dynamics Conference (ISDC). She presented it at the virtual ISDC conference from 20 to 24 July.

What has influenced the demand for photovoltaic systems in Germany? And in retrospect, what could have been decided differently to prevent demand slumping so sharply and to strengthen the German photovoltaic market? These were the topics Isabel Feucht addressed in her bachelor’s thesis entitled “Assessing the Boom and Bust of the German Photovoltaic Market – A System Dynamics Analysis” under the supervision of Professor Dr Florian Kapmeier. The questions are of great importance for political decision-makers: in order to achieve an energy system transformation and climate targets, a coordinated approach is needed which must be guided by an understanding of the drivers and influencing factors of energy policy. In particular, the discussion on how to increase installed photovoltaic capacity – also in view of current climate targets and energy system transformation – is always the centre of attention.

In her thesis, Ms Feucht used the data on the development of installed photovoltaic capacity in Germany. In addition, she conducted interviews with experts from various fields to find out which factors significantly influence the use of solar energy. With this information, she designed a quantitative simulation model using the method of system dynamics, calibrated it using real data and findings from interviews and simulated the development of installed photovoltaic capacity. The method of system dynamics is primarily used to explain the scientific facts of dynamic-complex systems. For this purpose, relevant system structures are modelled and simulation runs analysed in practice-related applications.

Among the major findings of the investigation are that the profitability of photovoltaics played a major role and that the level of awareness of the technology had a significant influence on developments. In addition, the so-called ‘pull-forward effects’, i.e. reductions in the energy feed-in tariffs, triggered investment incentives. 

Ms Feucht’s presentation at the ISDC was held in a session with the focus on energy system transformation and in which presentations on energy efficiency or sustainable energy sources were also held. In the ensuing discussion, the ESB graduate was pleased to receive not only a lot of positive comments but also constructive feedback. For example, the applicability of the model to other areas such as electromobility or wind energy was discussed and suggestions for possible extensions were made.  

The theme of this year’s 38th International System Dynamics Conference was “Hindsight in 2020: Learning from the Past to Inspire the Future”. Actually, it should have taken place in Bergen, Norway. Instead, a virtual solution was found for the conference, adapting to the current COVID-19 pandemic. The papers were presented live in online format and recorded so that participants from other time zones could also look at the presentations at a later time. In addition, there was a time-delayed “echo session” for each paper, again providing an opportunity to discuss the content of the presentations with the authors. Furthermore, there were numerous networking opportunities in the 3-D environment created especially for the conference, where participants could create a personal avatar. It was thus possible to have conversations with other participants while mingling under the virtual posters and exhibitor stands or participating in the “virtual banquet”.