Energy Industry Warns of Barriers to Innovation

Former economy minister Sigmar Gabriel, © Handelsblatt

The who’s who of the energy industry met in Berlin, Germany, between Jan. 24 and 26, 2017, for the 24th annual assembly of German business magazine Handelsblatt in order to discuss developments in energy policy, assess risks and opportunities and develop scenarios for the path ahead.

Germany has so far invested more than EUR 200 billion in the transformation of its energy market. The share of renewables, however, is at a mere 13 percent of energy demand when looking at overall consumption (annual average of energy demand, baseload). But batteries are severely limited in storing renewable power. Conversely, “green” hydrogen and power-to-X are being redefined and are considered to have much potential.

Electricity (price, amount, availability) is not the only, nor the most important piece to the puzzle – especially for a country such as Germany that has a large manufacturing base; it’s “heat.” The latter …


Energy transformation: digitized and European

The basic message of the event was that energy was to be thought of in pragmatic terms and be unburdened from government regulations. The incorporation of free-market principles, for example, when determining energy prices, was necessary to enable fair competition among suppliers of different energy sources, it was said. The CO2 footprint (climate targets) was just as important as energy efficiency, decentralized energy generation, transport and prices.

Digitizing energy flows (smart metering, smart grid) through data analysis would allow for a successful implementation of energy market changes. Sector integration was as essential as it was necessary to put energy into a broader perspective (Europe and the world). Instead of serving special interests, attention should shift toward implementing the entire system (and away from micro-management issues) – always based on “digital” and “decentralized” means. The renewable energy law and the various costs associated with it (e.g., grid charges) have grown into a barrier to innovation, and politics has set targets that cannot be met.

Battery technology is indeed …

The future belongs to fuel cells and H2

Several presentations by representatives from well-known corporations, e.g. Siemens, ExxonMobil, Audi, pointed to the unique potential of hydrogen and methane as storage media through power-to-X (gas, heat, chemical) and their potential in combination with CO2 (methanization) for carbon capture and in electric transportation. …

In short

The EEG should not only be revised, but entirely rewritten to make room for adjustable, inexpensive and environmentally friendly energy supply in the form of power and heat, and in transportation. Politicians, however, do not yet seem to fully appreciate the many intricacies of the development. In addition to batteries, it will be fuel cells and hydrogen that will grow in importance in their many fields. China – and apparently soon the United States – will put on the pressure, manufacturing more products based on these energy sources domestically and increasing their use in electric transportation. Support should be provided for innovations related to technologies, new business areas and all types of digitization of the energy industry.

Author: Sven Jösting

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