Spatial decision support for a sustainable and efficient energy transition

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Spatial decision support for a sustainable and efficient energy transition

Spatial decision support for a sustainable and efficient energy transition

Energy transition is governed at European and national scale, leading to laws and regulations such as the German EEG or the French LTECV. The implementation of the energy transition in response to these acts is taking place on a regional scale. Regional administrations define their own targets adapted to the local demands and potentials. Regional administrations are often not aware of the full potential and limitations of their spatial units regarding the production of renewable energies. Earth Observation (EO) is therefore used by Copernicus4Renewables (COP4EE-2) to determine the potential of areas for wind power plants, photovoltaic plants, district heating or the production of biomass.

Spatial modelling

Open access Copernicus data, particularly the high-resolution Sentinel satellite data, allow for continuous monitoring of land use, crop type cultivation and the use of permanent grassland. By combining these data with digital elevation models, climate data and other existing spatial information (e.g. soil data, Natura 2000 sites, other conservation areas, locations of power plants etc.) in a spatial model, the most suitable renewable energy source for an area can be determined. Regionally adapted scenarios can be computed to address regionally defined energy transition targets. For the first time, this space-based solution allows evidence based spatial decision support to be provided for the renewable energy sector, a key sector reflected in the Paris Agreement.

Facilitating decision making

The unique character of this space-based solution is that it considers ecological and economical aspects of renewable energy production. For example, factors such as distance from biogas plants (regarding transport costs and GHG emissions) and pollinator-friendly crop cycles are taken into account when assessing the potential for bioenergy crop production. The spatial model is an innovative planning tool for regional decision makers and public authorities. Hence, the energy transition can be planned in direct response to the local energy demand, on sites with most efficient energy output and in an ecologically sustainable manner. Spatial planning of the energy transition is thus possible, whilst preserving the regional diversity of the landscape with direct benefits for citizens.


  • Mapping crop types
  • Monitoring grassland use intensities
  • Development of a spatial model for determining the potential of areas for the production of biomass
  • Contribution to the spatial decision support system

Potential of application

The energy transition is a major challenge for the European Union. Its territorial implementation is having more and more impact on regional development. The COP4EE approach has so far been established in the region of Trier and Bitburg-Prüm in Germany, but with the fully operational Sentinels and with modern IT infrastructure for big data processing, it is possible to scale up the approach to the EU territory. The Copernicus programme, with its long-term provision of free EO data and the upcoming Copernicus Data and Information Access Services (DIAS), is therefore fundamental.

Project partners

DELPHI IMM GmbH, Germany; Forschungsstelle für Energiewirtschaft e.V. (FfE), Germany

Funding source

COP4EE-2 is funded by the Federal Ministry for Economic Affairs and Energy (BMWi) through DLR