EWI Energy Summit: Energy Prices and Digitalization

EWI Energy Summit: Energy Prices and Digitalization
December 9, 2021 |

Experts from science, politics, and business discuss rising energy prices, climate protection, and the energy industry’s digital transformation at the EWI Energy Summit.

“A smart energy system is essential for the energy transition,” said NRW Economics and Energy Minister Prof. Dr. Andreas Pinkwart at the EWI Energy Summit. “North Rhine-Westphalia is rising to this challenge and is developing a concrete roadmap for the secure and affordable energy supply of tomorrow.” In addition to the rapid expansion of renewable energies, such as wind energy or photovoltaics, greater attention must also be paid to storage facilities and grids, Pinkwart added.

At the EWI Energy Summit, science, politics, and business experts discussed the topic “In transition: energy industry between price pressure and digitalization.” The annual conference of the Institute of Energy Economics at the University of Cologne (EWI) was held in cooperation with the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung and the BDEW. Due to the pandemic, the event was held once again virtually. About 90 guests took part in the statements and subsequent discussions on rising energy prices and digital transformation. Jan Hauser, editor at the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung, moderated the event.

Energy Transition means a Change in Capital Stock

Rising prices on the energy markets have again fueled the discussion about regulatory elements. The EEG levy, the CO2 tax, or energy taxes at the national level add further uncertainty to the transforming energy industry. The shaping of an increasingly decarbonized energy world is accompanied by a digital transformation that offers opportunities and challenges at the same time. The energy transition also plays a central role in the coalition agreement of the designated German government.

Among other things, the energy transition requires a change in the capital stock. “All scenarios for achieving the politically set climate targets assume that in all sectors the change rate of the capital stock will increase rapidly, significantly, and permanently,” said EWI Director Prof. Dr. Marc Oliver Bettzüge in the discussion. He added that the coalition agreement regarding the energy policy also focuses primarily on accelerating and expanding investment activity. “Between paper and reality lie here numerous decisions by millions of people and companies. These decisions would have to be incentivized, suitably coordinated, and subsequently implemented quickly and successfully.” Therefore, the new governing coalition would have to develop a comprehensive and robust implementation concept in the short term to make the proclaimed goals a reality by 2030.

“Expansion of digital infrastructure is lagging”

“What we are experiencing in the market at the moment has never happened before,” said Dr. Catharina Friedrich, board member of rhenag Rheinische Energie AG, in her statement at the start of the EWI Energy Summit. “A variety of factors are causing an explosion in energy prices.” Not allowing CO2 prices to rise in the short term is good news from the end consumers’ perspective.

EWI Director Prof. Dr. Wolfgang Ketter discussed the digital transformation aspect with NRW Economics and Energy Minister Pinkwart. “The expansion of the digital infrastructure in Germany is clearly lagging behind,” said Ketter. “But this is a prerequisite for the energy and transport transition.” Pinkwart added: “The new government coalition has set itself the goal of ideally phasing out coal-fired power generation as early as 2030.” This exit, in turn, would entail higher requirements for the energy system in Germany. “We need a significant acceleration of planning and implementation processes so that we can achieve the ambitious goals in the coalition agreement.”