Conference of the working group KlimAK: Out of the crisis and into climate protection
The way leading there, however, is not well-trodden ground but uncharted territory. Even though the urgent matters are dictated by the current energy crisis, climate change and the energy crisis are closely intertwined with each other, emphasised BBH partner Prof. Dr. Christian Theobald, who moderated the conference together with Prof. Dr. Ines Zenke and Andreas Große. “The suppliers must take the crisis into account in their climate protection measures,” said Prof. Dr. Ines Zenke. The role of coal and nuclear power in energy generation as well as the role of natural gas as a bridging technology are not only key issues in the crisis but also important factors in the climate transition.
BBH-partner Dr. Olaf Däuper gave an overview of the energy and climate policy initiatives of the Federal Government. With the Easter Package, the Federal Government has launched various measures. The approval procedures have been given a boost, even if the full potential is far from being realised, said Prof. Dr. Ines Zenke. Other measures had to be postponed due to the constant crisis mode as a result of the war in Ukraine. “The issues that have not been tackled so far remain on the to-do list,” emphasised Däuper. These include, for example, a law on municipal heat planning as an essential component of the heat transition. After all, half the amount of heat consumed in Germany is currently still produced from natural gas. “The heating market is a sleeping giant,” said Dr. Olaf Däuper. A giant that urgently needs to be awakened for the climate transition.
Dr. Felix Matthes, Research Coordinator at Öko-Institut and member of the Expert Commission for Heating and Gas (Expert:innenkommission Wärme/Gas), provided a solid overview of the facts and figures to the participants from businesses. And lo and behold, climate neutrality seems to be a global trend with 135 states already committed to pursuing this target. He pointed out that, even though the goals are not legally enforceable, the educational value should not be underestimated. Structural changes would inevitably be required in all sectors. The expansion of renewable energy sources alone had not succeeded in achieving the decarbonisation. Therefore, an active market exit policy would be required. This includes the central, though still completely open questions as to which gas infrastructure will still be needed in the future as hydrogen infrastructure and how much of the grid can and will have to be dismantled. “There is no universal solution for the distribution grids,” Matthes said in view of the individual local circumstances and the role of the municipal heat planning. What is more: “Climate neutrality is not going to fail because of the costs or because of the technology; it might fail because of the infrastructure, though”. If electrification is to be a path to decarbonisation, then electricity prices would have to decrease, Matthes further said. In addition, he pleads for resilient structures also in the electricity sector, e.g. regarding solar power generation.
But how to go about achieving climate neutrality? The measures needed to bring about climate neutrality are obvious, explained Arne Dorando, BBHC expert for green municipal utility companies. “However, the question as to which specific measures are appropriate and feasible always depends on the individual case and the local supply situation,” said Dorando. The KlimAK Compliance Check, which Dorando and his colleagues will develop by November this year, is to help answer this question. According to Prof. Dr. Ines Zenke, this check can also be carried out as part of the holistic corporate compliance measures.
Looking ahead to the future and addressing the heat transition, which is an essential factor in achieving climate neutrality, Roland Monjau (BBHC) said that “business models in the area of heat will only be viable if they are in line with funding programmes”. In his joint presentation with Roland Monjau, lawyer and BBH partner Ulf Jacobshagen, also pointed out that while it is necessary to ensure the success of the heat transition, which has already been kicked off, there are still a number of obstacles to overcome. A relevant regulatory framework – the Building Energy Act (Gebäude-Energie-Gesetz – GEG) – is now in place, which sets out that new heating systems must operate with 65% renewable energy. However, due to a lack of acceptance and the complexity of the subject matter, which also presents challenges in terms of communication and practical implementation, this objective was often not achieved. Nevertheless, 2022/23 was the perfect time for companies to work on their own heat strategy and to phase out conventional heat supply.
The next speaker was Prof. Dr. Rolf Bracke, Director of the Fraunhofer Research Institution for Energy Infrastructures and Geothermal Systems IEG, who spoke about how geothermal energy can contribute to achieving the heat transition. “Thank God, supply and demand in Germany are in balance,” concluded Prof. Dr. Bracke. Medium-depth geothermal energy could also be used for supplying buildings, such as the one on Magazinstraße in Berlin which is currently occupied by BBH. However, according to Prof. Dr. Bracke, the data is often insufficient and the subsurface not sufficiently explored. There is a lot of potential and the necessary technology is available. Policymakers now needed to establish clear expansion goals, effective measures for risk mitigation and new training schemes in the trades sector.
Erdwärme Grünwald GmbH has had enormous success with geothermal energy. However, during the following panel discussion, which was chaired by BBH partner and lawyer Andreas Große and centred on the topic of heat transition at the local level, Managing Director Andreas Lederle also emphasised that “we need 100 to 150 new geothermal installations every year in order to achieve the climate targets”. Lederle was nevertheless optimistic and pointed out that “geothermal energy was not attractive in the past, but today, the opposite is true! The time for geothermal energy has come!” The other panellists agreed that there are great opportunities, driven also by the war in Ukraine and the gas crisis. Energy suppliers must diversify their activities and “further develop into energy managers, energy advisors and operators of complex energy cells,” concluded Andreas Bach, Operations Manager at Technische Werke Ludwigshafen am Rhein.
ZDF meteorologist Özden Terli showed the audience compelling pictures from the Arctic region, emphasising that it was high time to take action. Speaking about the hotspot of global warming, he addressed the melting ice, rising sea levels and the associated global warming, the effects of which have an impact on all of us, especially also in Germany, and will be felt to an even greater degree in the future.
Thus, he also urged the large expert audience to do more and to reinforce their efforts.
The evening was rounded off by a dinner speech from Bundestag Member Dr. Nina Scheer, climate protection and energy policy spokesperson for the SPD parliamentary group, at a culinary get-together.
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Prof. Dr. Ines Zenke
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