Navigating the energy transition
Why do we have to take care of the energy transition in urban areas and big cities?
Sebastian Lührs, responsible for strategy and business development at E.ON, explains how the energy demand in German cities must be addressed.
It's autumn in Berlin: there's a cold fresh wind, from time to time a sunbeam. We're meeting with Sebastian Lührs for a short sailing trip. The North German native loves to be out on the water. When sailing, he's happy and switches off and relaxes. But he also knows how it is to be under pressure. In his job, he's always in motion. He works on sustainable city solutions and the implementation of the urban energy transition.
Mr. Lührs, more and more people are moving to cities. So more CO2 is emitted, which means that climate and the environment suffer. Can the urban energy transition succeed?
It's true that the consequences of urbanization will come back to haunt us if we do not act consistently. Today, around 60 million Germans live in cities, where space is limited and energy demands are very large. However, many city people produce significantly less emissions per capita than in less densely populated areas. However, we must massively reduce emissions. When hearing about the energy transition, most people initially think of renewable electricity. In cities, the transport and district heating sectors offer plenty of potential. We have done much too little, for years.
And, your suggestion?
We have to start looking at electricity, heating & transport as a single entity. Electromobility will contribute decisively to reducing energy consumption in traffic, because the electric engine is much more efficient than the combustion engine. We, as E.ON, don't only just supply the renewable electricity, for example, from our wind parks in the surrounding of Berlin, but we also take care of the entire charging infrastructure. It is particularly challenging to implement a heating transition. For the time being, there is no standard solution, which we can simply pull out of a bag. We therefore work closely with the real estate industry - in the areas of electric mobility and heating.
We have to start looking at electricity, heating & transport as a single entity.
How do you imagine this cooperation?
At the very start, it's important to think about e-mobility in every new building and every time you optimize an existing building, so that you don't have to do expensive retrofits later. I am not saying that we have to equip every parking lot today with a charging point - but the possibility of a cost-effective retrofit must be ensured in every case. For a sustainable heat supply, decentralized solutions such as heat pumps have the advantage that they are not only economical and climate-friendly today, but also in the future, as heat pumps can easily be combined with new technologies. Although the real estate sector has already understood this to a large extent - in order to reach the federal government’s climate goals, much more needs to be done. We'd like to help.
Pushing through lots of building renovations quickly lead to higher rents. Tenants won't be enthusiastic ...
I don't want to talk about what's gone wrong in the past. We certainly have not been choosing and still today don't always choose the most favourable way to save CO2. That is why we need transparency about what is being done and for what reasons - and what it costs in detail. Not only between us and the real estate industry, but especially when it comes to dealing with tenants. Then we can have a fact-based discussion about what is required, right or unimportant. We need a dialogue and a willingness to do things differently. This can include simple but effective and cost-effective measures, such as the replacement of a thirty-year-old heating installation.