Renewable energies: crisis as historic opportunity for innovation
The renewable energy sector has weathered the pandemic relatively well partly because of its system-relevant status. "People will always need energy," said Astrid Dose, Public Relations Officer and Marketing Manager with the Renewable Energies Hamburg Clusteragentur GmbH. Most member companies had prepared well for the crisis. "There were outstandingly well-thought-out disaster plans, which ensured employee safety at the height of the pandemic and meant work could continue smoothly. And not only in large companies, but right down to the project level,” Dose stressed.
Paving way for sector coupling
The EEHH cluster initiates new projects in Germany and abroad in a bid to strengthen and expand Hamburg's role as a centre of forward-looking energy systems. Projects in the fields of innovation, technology and research are being promoted among other efforts. EU-funded projects such as Northern Connections are being implemented in collaboration with partners in neighbouring countries to achieve improved sector coupling in northern Europe.
Survey on post-corona period
Commenting in July 2020 on the survey entitled "Market recovery with the Aid of Renewable Energies after the Corona Pandemic", Jan Rispens, Managing Director of the EEHH Cluster, said: "The economic recovery after the crisis holds significant opportunities for closer integration of renewable energies in the energy system and industry." The 180 members surveyed expressed hopes of strengthening their industry. Around 85 per cent of interviewees believe that the expansion of renewable energies should be given a high to very high priority in an adapted energy system, and two thirds came out in favour of greater emphasis on sustainability and climate compatibility during the post-corona economic recovery. Almost half of respondents said the crisis holds a historic opportunity for innovation, accelerating the expansion of renewable energies and restructuring the energy sector. Two thirds would like to see the economy as an energy consumer legally obliged to rely more on renewable energies.
Hamburg's climate targets
The focus in Hamburg has long been on renewable energies and in 2011, the city was named "European Environmental Capital". The award is presented to cities that are exemplary in promoting environmental protection. The senate's "Climate Plan" foresees a 55 per cent cut in CO2 emissions by 2030 and becoming climate-neutral by 2050. "Hamburg has achieved plenty in climate protection since 2011. We are renovating schools and public buildings and focusing on emission-free public transport. We are also investing in shore-side electricity in the port and are phasing out district heating with coal. Hamburg has cut CO2 emissions by an average of over 400,000 t CO2 per year since 2012. "The latest measures agreed will allow us to achieve the 55 per cent climate protection target for 2030, and probably even exceed it," said Dr. Peter Tschentscher, Mayor of Hamburg. The senate also put another EUR 25 million towards the city's "Climate Plan" in August.
German Renewables Award
Politicians are not alone among those striving for an environment-friendlier future. Those behind forward-looking ideas for the energy system transition were honoured at the 9th German Renewables Award ceremony in September. "The winners have covered many forward-looking topics. The student work of the year presented a strategy for developing the heating network in Hamburg while the award for lifetime achievement went to Reinhard Christiansen for initiating the "Ellhöft Wind Farm" on the Danish border with 28 villagers," said Dose. Two excellent projects on hydrogen and digitalisation in the offshore industry were also honoured. The corona pandemic has forced this year's award ceremony to go hybrid. "Otherwise we would have had a really nice gala, but which unfortunately was not possible this year." Around 40 guests attended the event in Altona's “Opernloft” or opera loft while another 300 joined in per live-stream.
Events amid corona
Dose is now hoping for more secure planning in 2021. "A network like ours thrives on events and 2020 has not been easy." However, corona has also triggered many new web events and seminars in the renewable energy sector. Member companies have described their experience of the pandemic and the network has seen what is digitally possible. "We will continue to spin this digital thread," Dose added.
Founded in 2010 by the City of Hamburg and the Verein zur Förderung des Clusters der Erneuerbaren Energien Hamburgs, which have a 51 per cent and 49 per cent share respectively, the EEHH cluster pools the expertise of more than 190 companies, research facilities and institutions across the Hamburg Metropolitan Region's renewable energy sector.