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Uniper hosts Debate.Energy virtual conference

Published by , Assistant Editor
Energy Global,

What path will Germany take after coal and nuclear energy is phased-out? What does the energy supply of the future look like? What role does hydrogen play in this? What framework conditions are needed for investments in the energy world of tomorrow? These and other questions were discussed in the first virtual Debate.Energy conference in Berlin, Germany hosted by the energy company Uniper.

The conference included international leaders from industry, politics and business, with participants such as Andreas Feicht, State Secretary at the Federal Ministry of Economics and Energy, Dr. Markus Söder, Bavarian Prime Minister, Stephan Weil, Prime Minister of Lower Saxony, Jürgen Trittin, former Federal Environment Minister and MDB B90/Die Grünen; Holger Lösch, Deputy Managing Director BDI; Dr. Brigitte Knopf, Secretary General MCC and Jeremy Rifkin, economist, sociologist & energy expert. Uniper was represented by Andreas Schierenbeck (Chief Executive Officer), Sascha Bibert (Chief Financial Officer) and David Bryson (Chief Operating Officer).

Uniper Chief Executive Officer Andreas Schierenbeck: "Our energy system is at a pivotal moment in history. Following the phase-out of coal and nuclear power, we must now make a consistent move: Into a more climate-friendly as well as secure and affordable energy system. But the energy transition cannot succeed without investments. At Uniper, we're ready to play our part, investing €1.2 billion in future-oriented, climate-friendly technologies by 2022 alone. Once the important economic stimulus package has been adopted, I expect policymakers to continue to pursue the course they have set and to provide appropriate support where necessary. By this I mean, among other things, a clear long-term framework for the construction of new climate-friendly power plants and the conditions for the establishment of a hydrogen economy in Germany."

Dr. Markus Söder, Bavarian Minister President: "Climate change has a similar pandemic effect like COVID-19 - but unfortunately without a vaccine. Because of COVID-19 nobody can press the ‘reset button’ and say that climate protection is no longer important. In these times we are faced with the great challenge of bringing two things together: Achieving our climate goals while ensuring that energy remains reliable and affordable. This is essential for Germany as an industrial location. A lot can be achieved with renewable energies. But in the field of energy storage and new technologies we need to improve research and invest in order to achieve a market and competitiveness. And our modern gas power plants in Germany will also play an important role in the future."

Dr. Brigitte Knopf, Secretary General MCC: "The energy triangle has become a square: Social acceptance is a new dimension to consider. What we need is a broad discourse and - especially in the case of hydrogen - openness to technology. I would not exclude any technology from the outset. But it needs an honest and nuanced debate."

Another topic of the event was the high importance that the capital market and politics adopt a sustainable and climate-friendly corporate and investment strategy. The ‘New Green Deal’ panel dealt, among other things, with the question of what new investment hurdles and opportunities a CO2-poorer energy world offers.

Uniper Chief Financial Officer Sascha Bibert: "There are almost no investors today who don't care if companies ignore social and ecological criteria. That is a good thing. Uniper is prepared to keep pace with the increased demands of the capital market in terms of sustainability. That's why we've committed to making our power generation business in Europe CO2-neutral by 2035 and to making decarbonisation an integral part of our strategy and future investments - in perspective for our global commodities business and our international generation portfolio."

Jürgen Trittin, former Federal Environment Minister and MDB B90/Die Grünen: "We will have to find an answer on how to deal with the biggest recession in post-war history. It turns out that those who invested sustainably have come through the crisis better. Therefore, it is now necessary to invest on a broad front in a direction that allows 80% of the remaining resources such as coal and gas to remain underground".

The Energy Report 2020, which reflects German public opinion on the energy system transformation, was also presented at the conference. The majority of those surveyed by the opinion research company Civey are optimistic that energy system transformation can still be a success story and are in favour of further expanding renewable energies. At the same time, the respondents believe that hydrogen and energy storage will play a role in the future in ensuring security of supply even when the wind is not blowing and the sun is not shining. The Germans are also price-sensitive when it comes to energy supply: although the majority is in favour of more climate-neutral, sustainable and CO2-reduced energy sources, they are also in favour of the use of renewable energies. At the same time, however, only very few are prepared to pay more for it.

All information and documents on the event, including the Energy Report 2020, are available here.

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