Climate-neutral Germany: options for the further development of industrial production
Munich, 27 April 2023
Germany’s mission is to achieve climate neutrality by 2045. This will require swift and ambitious measures, with all stakeholders working together on technical, societal and economic solutions to bring about this transformation. On 25 April, acatech am Dienstag turned the spotlight on the forthcoming reshaping of industry. Insights into the courses of action devised as part of the Academies project Energy Systems of the Future (ESYS) served as the starting point, on which two experts from industry and politics commented.
acatech President Jan Wörner opened acatech am Dienstag on 25 April by saying that dealing with the major global challenges, such as the coronavirus pandemic, climate change and wars, requires a well-structured approach. Ideally, a four-pronged approach involving discovery, monitoring, creating awareness and tackling/adaptation to the challenges. We already have a high level of awareness of climate change, he noted; now we have to act.
Anke Weidlich, Professor at the Department of Sustainable Systems Engineering (INATECH) at the University of Freiburg and head of the working group “Scenarios for climate-neutral integrated energy supply and production” within the Academies project ESYS, presented the working group’s results on the transformation of industry. On the basis of modelling and variously ambitious carbon reduction targets, the committee of experts came up with different courses of action. At the heart of zero-emissions, i.e. climate-neutral, industrial production there are three focal points: creating a circular economy, material efficiency and substitution as well as climate-neutral processes.
Anke Weidlich illustrated what this means using cement as an example. Right from the building planning stage, recyclability must be taken into consideration and any waste that arises during demolition should be collected, separated, and reused or recycled. Since cement accounts for the majority of harmful carbon emissions in the construction industry, new materials with comparable properties have to be developed and – where possible – timber used as a substitute. Energy-intensive processes should be switched over to biomass or green hydrogen as far as possible and any remaining carbon emissions dealt with using CCS (carbon capture and storage) or CCU (carbon capture and utilisation).
Eike Blume-Werry from the Federation of German Industries (BDI) made it clear in his statement that the industry is quite willing to undergo this transformation and wants to make an effort but the conditions in Germany are not very conducive. For example, compared with competitors electricity is still too expensive and procedures are too long-drawn-out. Renewables, he said, have to provide electricity where it is needed and the infrastructure for green hydrogen and electricity must be built as soon as possible, or else companies will see no incentives to invest. The sooner this expansion takes place the better, as the electrification of heating processes between now and 2030 will create additional annual demand equivalent to the electricity consumption of Switzerland.
Last year policy work centred on the swift and targeted reduction of energy costs, said Jan-Peter Wißborn, Energy and Climate Protection Advisor to the CDU/CSU Parliamentary Group in the German Bundestag, in relation to the work in the parliamentary committees. But now it is time, he said, to expedite climate protection through ambitious efforts. A broadening of carbon pricing and certificate trading to include carbon contracts for difference as well as other measures are required for greater efficacy. Mr Wißborn also said that the course for CCS/CCU must be set and the use of green hydrogen in gas-fired power plants has to be moved forward. He went on to say that alongside the projects, red tape must be cut to make it easier for companies to make the transition.
To close, moderator Marc-Denis Weitze from the acatech Office asked the contributors for their outlook as well as the next necessary targets to achieve climate neutrality by 2045.
Jan-Peter Wißborn expressed confidence but did concede that there were considerable challenges ahead. We must act as quickly as possible to successfully move forward with the hydrogen strategy, he said, and to put a cap on the price of electricity.
Eike Blume-Werry was not quite as positive about the future. In his opinion, the reductions that have been made thus far are largely down to reduced production. For that reason, renewables need to be expanded much faster, electricity needs to be cheaper and a huge ramping-up of the infrastructure of electricity networks, hydrogen pipelines and charging points is required. At the same time, he said, there must be a “revolution” in planning and permission procedures.
Anke Weidlich believes that work in the working group runs the gamut from optimism to pessimism but that lately optimism is winning out. On the one hand, the federal government’s targets for expansion accord with the recommendations made in the ESYS and other studies. On the other hand, these targets also have to be met and suitable measures taken. Anke Weidlich also has high hopes for the expansion and tightening up of Europe’s emission trading, as this could have a discernible effect.