Renewable energies: crisis as a historic opportunity for innovation in Hamburg

The renewable energy industry has come through the pandemic relatively well; the energy sector falls into the “systemically important” category . “People always need energy,” emphasizes Astrid Dose, project manager for public relations and marketing at Renewable Energies Hamburg Clusteragentur GmbH. The member companies were accordingly well prepared. “There were exceptionally well thought out disaster plans that, for example, ensured employee safety during the peak of the pandemic and enabled work to continue smoothly.” And not only in the large companies, but also in the various projects. 

The EEHH cluster continuously initiates new projects domestically and abroad with the aim of further strengthening and expanding Hamburg’s role as the center for the energy systems of the future. Among other things, projects in the fields of innovation, technology and research are promoted and EU funding projects such as Northern Connections are implemented for cross-border cooperation with partners in neighboring countries. 

The view of the current situation in the industry is comparatively positive: “The recovery of the economy after the crisis offers significant opportunities to integrate renewable energies more strongly into the energy system and into industry,” explained Jan Rispens, Managing Director of the EEHH cluster at the presentation of the industry survey “Market recovery with the help of renewable energies after the corona pandemic”. The 180 surveyed member companies also hope that their industry will strengthen. For example, 85 percent of those surveyed think that the expansion of renewable energies should be given high to very high priority in an adapted energy system and two thirds stated that sustainability and climate compatibility should play a major role in the economic recovery after the corona crisis. Almost half of the respondents stated that the crisis even offers a historic opportunity for innovation, accelerating the expansion of renewable energies and for restructuring the energy sector. And two thirds would like the economy, as energy consumers, to be legally obliged to rely more on renewable energies during the recovery after the corona pandemic.

In Hamburg the focus has long been on renewable energies. In 2011, the city was named European Green Capital. The award goes to major cities that are exemplary in promoting environmental protection. The Senate’s current climate plan envisages reducing CO2 emissions by 55 percent by 2030 and becoming climate-neutral by 2050. “Since 2011, Hamburg has achieved a lot in terms of climate protection. We are renovating schools and public buildings, relying on emission-free local public transport, investing in shore power in the port and using coal for district heating. Since 2012, CO2 emissions in Hamburg have decreased every year, on average by over 400,000 t CO2 per year. With the measures that have now been decided, we will surely achieve the 55 percent climate protection target for 2030, and probably even exceed it, ”said Mayor of Hamburg, Peter Tschentscher. In August the Senate decided to provide a further 25 million euros for the Hamburg climate plan.

But not only politicians are continuing their efforts for a “greener future”. At the presentation of the 9th German Renewables Award in September, pioneering ideas for the energy transition were recognized. “With their projects, the award winners covered numerous future topics. From the student work of the year, which presents a strategy for the development of the heating network in Hamburg, to the life’s work of the year: Reinhard Christiansen initiated the “Ellhöft wind farm” on the Danish border together with 28 villagers, ”says Astrid Dose. There were also two excellent projects on the subject of hydrogen and one on the subject of digitization in the offshore industry. Due to corona, the award ceremony took place as a hybrid event. “Otherwise we would have organized a really nice gala, unfortunately that was not possible this year.” But it was still a successful event with around 40 guests in the Opernloft Altona and another 300 who were connected via live stream.

Nevertheless, Astrid Dose hopes for more planning security in the coming year. “For a network like ours, which lives heavily from events, 2020 was not easy.” However, Corona has also led to a large number of new web events and seminars in the renewable energies sector, in which member companies were also involved, who shared their experiences during the pandemic. “This is how we experienced everything that is digitally possible. And we will continue to spin this digital thread. ”