The main argument for gas to power in Germany

Dr Timm Kehler's picture
Dr Timm Kehler, Chairman, Zukunft ERDGAS
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As the EU’s energy mix evolves, the share of natural gas continues to increase from 24% in 2016 to 27% by 2040, as reported in BP’s energy outlook. The market is also experiencing power sector development, with it becoming increasingly important and accounting for 50% of energy consumption by 2040.

With the 2018 European Autumn Gas Conference taking place in Berlin, 7-9th November, Gastech Insights spoke with Dr Timm Kehler, Chairman of Zukunft ERDGAS who are the partners of this year’s event. Read the full interview to discover the exclusive views on Germany’s evolving energy experience.

Gastech Insights: How can the industry ensure that gas remains a relevant part of the energy mix in the long-term?

Timm Kehler: Currently, Germany’s energy transition is struggling. Record levels of renewable electricity production combined with growing GHG emissions show that market players are not prioritizing climate protection over profit goals. Nevertheless, given Germany’s commitment to comply with the Paris Agreement and the newly established German government’s reaffirmation of the 2030 climate goals, natural gas can offer quick and affordable solutions for an immediate reduction in GHG emissions. While a fuel switch from coal and oil to natural gas can result in an immediate cut in GHG emissions, the growing amount of green gas transforms the gas into a carbon-neutral fuel that is hence able to sustainably diversify the energy mix also in the long term. To achieve this goal natural gas and its appliances must maintain the most cost-efficient solutions for climate protection.

Therefore, the industry needs to stronger educate about the advantages natural gas can offer in terms of being the least carbon-intense fossil. The industry also needs to further develop and increase the number and capacities of its green gas projects and advocate for political support for a quick and affordable energy transition.

Gastech Insight: What would you identify as the main argument for gas to power?

Timm Kehler: Gas is flexible, affordable and efficient. Therefore it is the perfect fit and partner for renewables energies. This is especially relevant when neither sun nor wind is sufficiently available and hence backup energy from other sources is needed to satisfy demand. Currently, only 12 percent of German electricity production results from gas, while about 40 percent of German power is still coal-based. The fact that a switch from a conventional German coal power plant to a modern gas power plant leads to an immediate reduction in CO2 emissions of up to 70 percent, shows that there is substantial leeway for low carbon energy sources such as natural gas and its growing shares of green gas.

Gastech Insights: What can the rest of Europe learn from the German energy experience?

Timm Kehler: The German energy transition is a great success story when measured by the growing shares of intermittent renewable energy production. We have achieved record levels of green power and a very high awareness of the importance of renewable sources within the German population. Nevertheless, a lack of focus both in terms of framework conditions as well as hard targets for the German energy transition has resulted in high electricity costs, but practically no reduction in CO2 emissions.

Even worse, we feature record levels of coal power production and have experienced an increase in GHG emissions in the transportation sector. Learning from that development, the level of CO2 intensity needs to be established as a key success factor of the German energy transition to make sure that the last gram of CO2 emitted results from the least carbon intense fossil, namely natural gas.

Gastech Insights: Is there a key technology that will help support the future of gas?

Timm Kehler: Among many other gas technologies in the field of natural gas and green gas, three innovative key technologies should be highlighted, namely fuel cells, LNG and Power-to-Gas. To begin with, fuel cells as highly efficient solutions for combined heat and power production will continuously increase their share in the heating market, especially in the commercial sector. Success stories such as SOLIDpower’s fuel cell technology supplying Microsoft’s data centers with power and cooling will further drive the technology.

On the other hand, LNG will increasingly help to decarbonize heavy traffic and shipping. Currently, there are two LNG filling stations in operation in Germany, with more under construction or to be built in the near future. Finally, the Power-to-Gas technology can balance seasonal fluctuations in renewable energy production and is hence an important factor in terms of converting the extensive existing German gas grid (500,000 km long) into an enormous battery for the German energy transition. So far Germany’s gas consumption can be met by the gas storage capacities for more than two months. This number also demonstrates the amount of excess energy that could be converted into green gas and stored for an infinite time in the German gas infrastructure.

Gastech Insights: Why should industry players attend the 2018 European Autumn Gas Conference?  

Timm Kehler: Given that this year’s EAGC edition will take place in Berlin, the conference will extensively deal with Germany’s energy transition and hence participants will be enabled to examine in detail the role gas can achieve in this interesting but also challenging environment as well as which risks and markets opportunities this framework brings about.

Besides outstanding speakers and controversial panel discussions dealing with current market developments in Germany and Europe, industry players will be able to benefit from various insights and practical examples on this year’s core topics, namely green gas and innovation. Various networking opportunities and exclusive fringe events will top off the conference and will provide all participants with a better understanding of Berlin’s political environment and startup spirit.  

if you would like to hear more on innovation within Europe's gas market by top industry experts and leaders, register for the European Autumn Gas Conference, 7-9 November in Berlin. 

Image courtesy of Zukunft ERDGAS