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Achieving Technological Independence through Resilience

2023-12-28

Resilience in the Energy Industry: Safeguarding Germany's Energy Independence

 

Germany's pursuit of a climate-neutral energy supply is a promising step towards reducing dependency on energy imports. However, this transition comes with a significant demand for resources. From wind turbines and photovoltaic systems to IT components and batteries, the industry heavily relies on raw materials obtained from outside the Western world. Such concentration, particularly in China, raises concerns about critical dependencies. To ensure Germany's and Europe's ability to act autonomously, measures to strengthen resilience are crucial. The industry association BDEW addresses these concerns in their insightful discussion paper titled "Resilience in the Energy Industry", examining the current landscape and proposing potential solutions.

 

Europe's Tech Dependency: A Call for Resilience

 

For a successful energy transition, Europe must confront its heavy reliance on specific supplier countries for vital technologies. Photovoltaics, for instance, reveal China's unwavering dominance throughout the value chain. The story remains the same for permanent magnets used in wind turbines, electric drives, and large storage batteries, as well as cables and control technology. This overreliance on external sources accentuates the need for resilience in the energy industry. Paying the "Insurance Premium" for Strategic Sovereignty According to Kerstin Andreae, Chairwoman of the BDEW Executive Board, achieving strategic sovereignty in the energy transition demands a willingness to pay an "insurance premium". This premium encompasses various possibilities: leveraging local content regulations, targeted investment subsidies, strategic partnerships for raw materials, or even establishing a European raw materials bank. The latter could purchase vital raw materials counter-cyclically. Additionally, revitalizing raw materials extraction within Europe and embracing a circular economy based on recycling and reparability can significantly contribute to enhancing resilience. 

 

Anchoring Value Creation in Europe: A Strategic Approach

 

A concrete solution to bolster resilience is anchoring a critical share of the value chain's value creation within Europe. This includes access to scarce raw materials, mastery of rapidly evolving technologies, and securing patents. Designing this share to enable rapid upscaling of production during times of crisis is paramount. By doing so, the costs of this insurance for society can be justified, garnering acceptance and support. 

 

A Path to a Sustainable Future: BDEW's Storage Strategy

 

In parallel with resilience-building efforts, BDEW also emphasizes the importance of expanding electricity storage systems. As renewable energy generation grows and becomes increasingly volatile, electricity storage is indispensable in balancing supply and demand. The 2037/2045 Electricity Grid Development Plan underscores the growing significance of electricity storage systems. While pumped-storage power plants boast a considerable installed capacity, additional large-scale and PV battery storage systems will be required. However, the existing legal framework is ill-equipped to support the swift expansion of an electricity storage infrastructure. To address this challenge and incentivize the necessary expansion of storage systems, BDEW has outlined a comprehensive storage strategy.

 

With its discussion paper on resilience in the energy industry and a well-defined storage strategy, BDEW offers valuable insights and potential paths forward. By embracing these measures, Germany and Europe can safeguard their energy independence and create a more secure and sustainable future.

 

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