Reußenköge/Berlin – The German Energy Agency (dena) has presented its pilot study entitled "Integrated Energy Turnaround". Coordinated by dena, the renowned Cologne-based research institute EWI joined forces with more than 50 partners from companies, associations and scientific institutions to look into transformation paths to enable the German energy system to achieve climate protection targets by 2050. One of the partners involved was GP JOULE: the only representative of Schleswig-Holstein, the company based in Reußenköge, North Frisia, was particularly active on the study's steering group, in particular in the context of the "Mobility" module.
As GP JOULE sees it, the results of what was probably the most in-depth investigation of energy system development scenarios to date send out a clear signal to policy-makers. Co-founder and managing director Ove Petersen puts the conclusion in a nutshell: "This should finally provide conclusive evidence that we cannot afford to wait any longer when it comes to expanding renewable energies and bringing about the market launch of power-to-gas, including the generation and use of green hydrogen in all sectors," he says. The expansion cap on window power, especially land-based, and on photovoltaics has to be suspended as quickly as possible. "The study establishes another point very clearly, too: without much increased use of green hydrogen, it won't be possible to get anywhere near meeting UN climate targets," Petersen adds.
Broad technology mix rather than electrification across the board
The key figures presented by the study underscore this unambiguously: if climate protection policy remains as it is at present, CO2 emissions would only drop by 62 per cent up until 2050. This would even fail to achieve the German federal government's minimum target of 80 per cent – which is in itself insufficient in order to bring about effective climate protection. What is required according to the study is a significant increase in the speed of expansion of renewable energies as well as the fast and consistent introduction of sectoral cross-linkage through the conversion of green power to green hydrogen. The latter could be put to a wide range of uses in transportation, industry and the heat sector, especially in areas where direct use of electric power is technically complex or very expensive. In this way it would also be possible to cut the cost of the energy turnaround. The experts who wrote the pilot study calculated that establishing a broad mix of technologies and energy sources by 2050 would be EUR 600 billion cheaper than the much-cited "all-electric world". The latter would involve electricity only being used directly in other sectors, whether in the form of electrically powered heat pumps or battery-powered electric cars.
dena pilot study shows that existing renewable energy expansion plans are not ambitious enough
Whatever happens, significant acceleration and intensification of the expansion of renewable energies is required: the dena pilot study calculates that onshore wind power plants with a total output of at least 4 GW and solar power plants with up to 3.6 GW have to be installed on an annual basis from 2015 to 2050. This would mean tripling/quadrupling the output provided by the wind and solar power plants in operation today – not even counting the power plants that have to be dismantled by 2050. The output generated by the latter has to be replaced as well.
"This shows that the expansion plans put forward by Schleswig-Holstein's state government to install wind power plants with a total output of 10 GW in the state by 2025 – regarded as over-ambitious by some – are in fact within the lower range of what is actually required", says Ove Petersen. The expansion plans of many other German federal states are far removed from what is necessary in order to meet the climate protection targets. The reason often cited is a lack of local acceptance. "But state governments fail to realise that acceptance doesn't come about through distance: it is achieved through the individual benefits and added value that people experience when they use renewable energies," says Petersen. "This experience of added value can particularly be provided by the use of hydrogen in mobility – by means of fuel cell cars or buses, for example, or even trains and ships running on regionally produced green hydrogen as a fuel."
Green hydrogen is said to be crucial to the cost-efficient achievement of climate targets
The dena pilot study presents reliable facts and figures as evidence to back up this assumption. It attributes a key role to green hydrogen and the gaseous or liquid energy sources derived from it (power fuels) in ensuring cost-efficient achievement of climate targets. In 2050 the demand for such energy sources will be 908 terawatt-hours, according to the study. For comparison: this is 150 terawatt-hours more than the amount of energy consumed by the entire transportation sector in Germany in 2016. It simply won't be possible for aircraft, ships and trains to run on battery power due to the low energy density of electricity and the high weight of the batteries.
The study says that at least 130 to 160 TWh of power fuels have to be generated domestically in 2050 – mainly drawn from green power supply peaks, which will mainly occur in Schleswig-Holstein in the future, too. This will lead to a reduction in the import of oil and gas for fuel production, while the added value generated in the region will increase significantly. "These figures impressively demonstrate the enormous potential offered by the energy turnaround and the use of innovative climate protection technologies for Schleswig-Holstein in particular," says Ove Petersen. "No other German federal state has such an excellent basis for converting wind and solar power to hydrogen and/or its derivatives at an increasingly low cost, thereby enabling regional value creation and the generation of jobs."
The experts suggest that political support should be provided for an ambitious expansion of power-to-gas facilities and their market launch in the short term.
In particular, it should be possible to full incorporate green hydrogen and the so-called e-fuels generated from it in calculating CO2 reduction rates in fuel production in refineries as well as the relevant fleet emission targets for passenger cars – and in future lorries, too. In this way, the production cost of green hydrogen would be reduced quickly and significantly according to the experts.
Ove Petersen is able to bear this out fully based on the experience of GP JOULE's Lübeck-based subsidiary H-TEC SYSTEMS over the past few years. "The fastest and most effective way to reduce the cost of electrolysis to generate green hydrogen is to install numerous large facilities. The results of the study very much bear out our investment strategy in terms of developing and producing PEM electrolysis stacks and PEM electrolysers as well as developing and designing cross-linkage projects and integrated energy systems." The only manufacturing centres for this type of facility in Germany are located in Lübeck and Braak/Stapelfeld (District of Stormarn).
"The authors of the dena pilot study project demand for an electrolysis capacity of 15,000 megawatts in Germany alone for the year 2030. The technology required for this is ready and waiting," explains Ove Petersen. "Now it's simply a matter of getting on with it," says the entrepreneur. For comparison: the power-to-gas facilities currently installed throughout the whole of Germany have a total output of some 50 megawatts. So in the course of the next 11 years, an average of 1,359 megawatts will have to be added per year.Urgent need for political action: regulatory conditions currently hinder the harnessing of the potential availableThese figures clearly illustrate an urgent need for action. The legislative and regulatory conditions for power-to-gas facilities have to be improved, accelerating the market launch of the use of green hydrogen. One of the dena pilot study's recommendations is to revise the rules for the input of load capacity into the grid so that surplus green power can also be used in power-to-gas facilities. GP JOULE has been advocating such a measure for some time now. Managing director Ove Petersen points out that northern Germany and Schleswig-Holstein would particularly stand to benefit: "This would mean that the electricity generated by wind and photovoltaic power plants – which at the moment is often cut off at a certain limit – could be put to effective use and deployed as green hydrogen in the mobility market or in industry," he says. "Diesel locomotives could be replaced by fuel cell locomotives running on green hydrogen, for example.
"The dena pilot study "Integrated Energy Turnaround" also indicates the huge export potential offered by climate protection technologies such as power-to-X. These technologies and their applications will be used worldwide, so the question of who supplies the facilities and the expertise to go with them is all the more important. "We are excellently prepared for this," says Ove Petersen. The German federal government does not seem to be aware of the export potential yet. But it would be particularly worthwhile for state governments in the north of Germany to take a close look at the results of the dena pilot study, too.
"The study sends out a clear message for the North that should motivate us all to do even more to advance the expansion of renewable energies and power-to-gas," says Ove Petersen. "No other region stands to benefit from such enormous opportunities and economic potential like the 'real North'", says the GP JOULE co-founder and managing director. "We invite everyone in a position of responsibility in the North to discuss the results of the study and draw the necessary conclusions."
Ms Birka Friedrich
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Mr Timo Bovi
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About GP JOULE.
Under the motto "TRUST YOUR ENERGY" and driven by the belief that 100% renewable energy is a feasible option, GP JOULE has shown itself to be an innovative and universal partner to businesses, local authorities and investors ever since it was founded in 2009. At sites in Germany and North America, a workforce of more than 200 develops energy and operating concepts for the future-oriented use of sun, wind, biomass and energy storage systems. GP JOULE has already made sector cross-linkage possible with its solutions in areas such as power-to-gas technology, municipal heat supply and electric mobility. GP JOULE CONNECT offers a 360-degree approach for this purpose that is built around its core products – power and charging infrastructure.