Natural gas is key to German Energiewende, says association chief

BDEW's chief executive said that power-to-gas tech, using surplus wind energy, should be rolled out in Germany. [Shutterstock]

The head of one of Germany’s main natural gas associations told EURACTIV’s partner Der Tagesspiegel that the German government should back the fuel source as part of its energy transition, as well as advocating the use of power-to-gas technology.

The chief executive of the German Association of Energy and Water Industries (BDEW) wants “a clear commitment to gas” from the country’s lawmakers. Stefan Kapferer wants the energy source to play a more important role in the drive to meet the 2050 climate protection plan.

Kapferer laid down four specific areas in which gas should be used. Firstly, in securing Germany’s heat supply, a factor in which gas still remains indispensable. Secondly, using the fuel source in natural gas-powered cars.

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Thirdly, gas power should be used as a back-up for renewable energies, which can be intermittent. Lastly, surplus electricity produced by Germany’s wind farms should be converted into gas fuel using power-to-gas technology.

The latter option is still relatively unknown to Germany’s politicians, as well as other important opinion-forming groups. “We have work to do there,” Kapferer told reporters at the beginning of the month during a presentation of a BDEW survey on natural gas’s role in the German Energiewende, its energy transition.

Municipal companies are unsure about the future of their heat supply and gas infrastructure, he added, arguing that a quick replacement through heat pumps is not possible. The BDEW chief suggested that a tax-subsidised exchange of old heaters is a good idea.

Kapferer also predicted CO2 savings of 30 million tonnes by 2030 in the building stock, which will only be possible by replacing old heaters with new gas condensing boilers. The climate protection plan foresees 47 million tonnes of CO2 savings from the same source. How this figure will be met is still open to debate.

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The natural gas advocate also insisted that fuel produced via power-to-gas would be green. But he acknowledged that it is only in Germany’s windy northern regions where there is viable potential for its use. But P2G stations, like storage, would be treated as end users.

That means that the technology is currently uneconomical, because of the amount of levies that have to be paid, Kapferer warned, despite the positive impact it could have on the Energiewende.

But Kapferer also pointed out that the potential for converting green electricity into heat, fuel or even gas is actually limited by Germany’s land resources. He concluded that other parts of the world, like Saudi Arabia, could therefore have an important role to play in producing “green gas”.

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