The Handelsblatt Energy Summit, which took place in Berlin from Jan. 20 to 22, was the right kind of event to take the pulse of the energy industry. Attendees typically discuss issues that have far-reaching implications for the German market. This year, it seemed as if over 80 percent of all presentations, speeches, panel discussions and shared opinions included, at the very least, …
… a passing reference to hydrogen, its uses and its contribution to fighting climate change and creating a renewable energy supply chain.
The way in which Germany has crafted national energy policy could soon become a model for other countries to emulate. The German renewable energy law, known as EEG, was a good start but is now yesterday’s news. The time has come to devise an industrial strategy that responds to the latest changes in the market, provides energy security and ensures affordable prices. The government’s decision to phase out coal and nuclear energy seems final, so what systems will supply the country with baseload power? “Do we have enough backup capacity?” was thus a fitting question and the title of one of the panel discussions held at the summit. LNG and CNG will be used for transitioning to a renewable energy system and batteries could store energy for certain applications, but that is about all. The lack of alternatives is the reason why hydrogen is moving more and more into focus.
Johannes Teyssen, the chief executive of E.ON, said it in a nutshell: Instead of gradually dismantling the EEG, as the German economy minister Peter Altmaier is offering to do, the clean energy law would need to be scrapped altogether. Teyssen suggested using carbon credits to cover the budget gap that would result. Some propose a price of EUR 150 to EUR 350 for one metric ton of carbon dioxide emissions, which would turn the credits into a perfect regulatory measure. Overall, the price would need to be much higher, high enough to encourage massive investment in clean energy and energy efficiency improvements to combat climate change. Attendees at the summit called for raising the cost of fossil fuels and lowering the cost of green electricity, especially if produced from hydrogen. Cut away the red tape, get rid of regulations suffocating the industry, and invest in innovative solutions on a massive scale, I would say. Change is more likely to happen when people are fully committed to the cause and not when doomsday scenarios and a general sense of panic drive them to action. Clean energy should always be supplied by distributed generation systems, ideally at the point of use.
Gutting the renewable energy law would benefit taxpayers, who would have more money in their pockets at the end of each month. It would also cause a drop in energy prices for businesses, factories and communities across the country. This would spur investment, a blessing to many German state governments as they are trying to put their best foot forward. As for industrial companies, they are ready to take the next step. Many communities also sense great opportunities, not just for taking climate action but also for establishing new markets that create jobs and, ultimately, generate tax revenues.
read more in H2-international May 2020
Author: Sven Jösting