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Time to think hard

What's the future of our energy supply? How will we ensure tomorrow's mobility? Hardly any issue is more hotly debated today.

Ubbo de Witt, managing partner
Ubbo de Witt, managing partner

In our region, the transition to a renewable energy supply comes with considerable investments which have already measurably boosted growth and jobs. Added to these positive effects are significant savings in fossil fuel imports.

Lower fossil fuel imports for energy consumption in Germany amount to EUR 18.25 billion per year. That's a massive saving of EUR 50 million every day! This is money that no longer supports Saudi Arabia and other Gulf states' money laundering and terrorist financing activities, which create refugees desperate to escape from war and violence. The EU Commission now wants to place Saudi Arabia on the EU's black list because "Saudi Arabia belongs to the countries whose systems for combating these problems have strategic defects".

We don't have any records about ideological debates among Stone-Age Homo sapiens as they transitioned from a hunter-gatherer to an agricultural society. However, the impact of the invention of the wheel on economic progress, combined with respect for nature, made a secure future possible, even though humans had to come to terms with a different landscape. This happened again with the introduction of the steam train. Hard times have often led to phases of intensive renewal, with necessity the mother of invention. Instead of waiting for the next flood, we build higher dykes now, trusting in the experience of dyke masters and coastal protection authorities.

VW promised the first mass-produced electric car back in 1995, building a mini-series of 120 Golf CityStromer electric cars. But not only the diesel scandal showed that German automotive producers are woefully unprepared for the future. For many years, along with the government, they had no interest in developing a model for a clean future. They preferred to cover up their failings, and many loyal (VW) customers are now stuck with the consequences.

The CityStromer, a prime example of a successful smoke-and-mirrors strategy, never went into volume production. Initially, the diesel particulate filter seemed doomed to the same fate in Germany. Originally successfully deployed to conceal submarines in the first world war, it was installed in the 1980s in the Mercedes S-class in California, then unfortunately developed for volume production in France by the PSA Group in 2000. From 2006, Germany's SPD/Green coalition government finally introduced tax breaks for its installation in Germany. Critical thinkers such as the Oldenburg physicist John Schellnhuber have warned for many years that the voluntary commitment of the automotive industry has had little effect in the fight against climate change. That's why climate-driven migration is set to rise even more.

This makes us partly responsible for refugee movements and means we must accept global responsibility. We can no longer afford to ignore these issues which affect many aspects of society. Governments must at long last tackle uncomfortable questions.

Locally, we have to implement concepts for transitioning to renewable energies in power supply and vehicle technology that cut our consumption of fossil fuels. This will also create sustainable jobs. It must no longer be cool to gridlock the world's most highly developed road networks and urban centres with ever more SUVs (soon to be banned in many cities anyway). We can only shape our future by thinking globally and acting locally!

Other countries are already ahead of us. Switzerland has introduced an effective CO2 tax on fossil fuels as a central plank of its policy to achieve climate protection goals. Based on consumption, two-thirds of this tax revenue is redistributed to the public and businesses. The other third goes into promoting CO2-effective activities in energy-saving building refurbishment, a technology fund and renewables. As from 2018, the CO2 tax is CHF 96 (approx. EUR 85) per ton.

At the latest from 2050, every new Japanese car will be electric. The basis for this is an agreement between the government and manufacturers. For every type of use, alternative drives will be available. For long-distance driving, Toyota is strategically focusing on fuel cells that run on liquid hydrogen. There's no doubt that Japan's electric vehicle charging infrastructure is already a step ahead. So why don't we also "think future", including the vision of electric charging stations as new service providers? They would supply state-of-the-art solutions in the hi-tech smart cities of the future without toxic emissions or carcinogenic benzene and toluene contaminating our food.

In Norway, almost every other new car is either hybrid or purely electric, and by 2025 combustion engines will be phased out. Electric cars can use bus lanes, are exempt from VAT and incur only low vehicle tax. In Oslo, the city council pays for charging, and parking is also free. The country has already laid the foundations for a mass market!

The development of renewable energies directly creates new jobs. This can be seen especially in Lower Saxony. The federal state has the highest future-oriented employment development in Germany. Lower Saxony is Germany's number-one wind energy state and can already cover more than 60 percent of its electricity consumption with renewables. And where cheaply generated energy leads, industry inevitably follows.

Germany plans to produce electrolysers with a power of seven gigawatts and a sales volume of over five billion euros per year as from 2030. But this will only happen if the right decisions are taken in the long term in favour of a regeneratively developed hydrogen industry and thousands of new jobs. Currently, public transport company Hamburger Hochbahn is phasing out four hydrogen buses purchased for test operation in 2010. The manufacturer, Daimler, is no longer able to supply them. Now volume-produced electric buses will be a better solution. They are manufactured by the young Polish company SOLARIS.

This proves it's time to think hard if Lower Saxony is to remain a leading energy and automotive hub in the future!

Press:
This article on NWZ-Online (german)

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