After the coronavirus shutdown: energy companies in Hamburg demand considerably stronger political commitment to renewables Industry survey by the Renewable Energy Hamburg Cluster Agency (EEEH)
In July, the Renewable Energy Hamburg Cluster Agency carried out a survey of its approx. 200 member companies – including energy providers, research institutes and manufacturers headquartered in Hamburg and the metropolitan region – on “market recovery with the aid of renewable energies after the coronavirus pandemic”. The companies voiced their opinions on the role of their industries in the general economic recovery and the necessity of subsidies and regulations, and assessed current political measures such as the national hydrogen strategy and the European Green Deal.
“The coronavirus pandemic has shaken many industries to the core, but also roused many people to action. The direct consequences of the enforced shutdown gave them a more concrete idea of the value of an intact environment and the importance of the energy transition. Restarting the economy after the crisis affords major opportunities to integrate renewable energies better in the energy system and in industry – provided the right policies are in place. To achieve this, it is essential that bureaucratic obstacles to climate-friendly energy supply are removed at a national and EU level,” says Jan Rispens, Managing Director of the EEHH cluster, calling for action.
Shift in energy policy needed all the more urgently after coronavirus
Two thirds of the companies surveyed agreed that sustainability and climate-compatible development should play a major role in restarting the economy after the coronavirus crisis. 85 percent of respondents think that the expansion of renewable energies in an adapted energy system should be given high or very high priority. Almost half the respondents said that the crisis even offered an historic opportunity for innovations, for fast-tracking the expansion of renewable energies and for restructuring the energy sector. However, there was also scepticism. More than half of respondents thought that politicians do not have renewable energies sufficiently in their sights. Considerably fewer respondents from companies in the private sector see this deficit. Provided there are the right incentives and regulations, renewable energies could make a considerable contribution to structural change here.
Need for government subsidies and regulations
Two thirds of the companies surveyed are of the opinion that renewable energies should be given special funding by the government for the economic recovery after the coronavirus pandemic. Some companies were less interested in financial benefits and would much rather prefer the removal of regulatory obstacles, plus quicker and easier approval procedures. The large majority of respondents wanted a simplification of the tax regulations. Three quarters of respondents view better regulations for the energy market, consistently increasing the price of energy types according to their environmental impact, as the most suitable political measure at an energy market regulation level for making renewable energy projects more attractive. Slightly more than half were also in favour of strict personal consumption regulation for industrial customers and private households.
In addition, two thirds of respondents would like to see the economy, as a consumer of energy, legally obliged to focus more strongly on renewable energies in the recovery after the coronavirus pandemic. Respondents see sector coupling, hydrogen projects and climate-friendly heating supply as particularly worthy of support. Of the many reasons for pushing ahead with the transformation of the energy system, the one that is most important for the respondents remains unaffected by the coronavirus crisis: more than two thirds think that acute climate change makes the expansion of renewable energies more necessary than ever.
Little optimism for offshore wind energy
Respondents on average awarded the Offshore Wind Energy Act target of 20 GW offshore by 2030 a score of 56 points on a scale of 1 to 100. The 40 GW target by 2040 was awarded an average of 52 points – across the entire scale there was more support than rejection. The statement that Germany will again become a pioneer in the offshore wind sector with the modified Act received agreement amounting to only 40 points on average.
Hopes for the hydrogen strategy
Respondents acknowledge existing efforts by political authorities. More than two thirds think the national hydrogen strategy is the right way to give the energy sector a strong new impetus. More than three quarters rated it as good or very good. For a successful outcome, most respondents want the expansion of renewable energies for hydrogen production to be significantly accelerated in Germany and regulations for the energy industry to be adjusted so that it is economically viable.
Expectations of the European Green Deal and the EU
Furthermore, giving renewable energies a higher profile in the European economy is an important political objective. However, only around one in five believes that the European Green Deal is adequate for this. More than half the respondents awarded it a neutral judgement. Most hope that the European Green Deal will result in the EU making a commitment to climate protection and setting a clear long-term objective. In terms of practical implementation, one third of respondents hoped for EU guidelines for Germany with respect to climate protection, with another third wanting more financial benefits for renewable energy projects. It is clear that there are high hopes of the EU: the majority of respondents anticipate more impetus from the EU than the German government in giving renewable energies more clout in the economic recovery. About the same number expect this impetus to come in equal parts from the EU and German policy.
Renewable energies sector as employer of the future
More young engineers are interested in a job in the renewable energies sector, which could benefit from the coronavirus crisis. In order to increase the interest of recent graduates, respondents are calling for more digitalisation and also for more attractive and contemporary models for working hours. In addition, they believe that salaries should be adjusted to match those in traditional sectors like the automotive industry and (fossil) energy supply.