Climate Action

David Radermacher on sustainable value creation through E.ONs energy networks and customer solutions

Ahead of Climate Innovation Forum, taking place during London Climate Action Week from 29 June – 1 July, Climate Action caught up with David Radermacher, Vice President Sustainability & Climate at E.ON SE, to discuss the role of cities in the energy transition and why strong partnerships are needed to tackle climate change.

  • 21 June 2021
  • Rachel Cooper

Ahead of Climate Innovation Forum, taking place during London Climate Action Week from 29 June – 1 July, Climate Action caught up with David Radermacher, Vice President Sustainability & Climate at E.ON SE, to discuss the role of cities in the energy transition and why strong partnerships are needed to tackle climate change.

During the Climate Innovation Forum we dedicate a whole day to “Green, Clean, Resilient Cities”. Why are cities important to consider individually? How can E.ON help cities to decarbonize?

More than half of the world’s population live in urban areas and cities account for more than 70% of greenhouse gas emissions worldwide. At the same time, cities play an important role in the fight against climate change: while some state leaders turned their backs on taking decisive action in the past, city leaders stepped up and took on responsibility. Their contribution can be immensely important. A lot is at stake and climate change induces very real consequences, especially for the population in urban areas who face air pollution, increasingly severe heat waves, threats to urban infrastructure. Cities are most acutely threatened by sea level rise and have to deal with the deteriorating health of city dwellers. In short: cities are very vulnerable to the consequences of climate change. On the plus side, they are also an important part of the solution and face an opportunity to set the course for a more sustainable future.

We are the ideal partner for cities and municipalities and offer the best possible solutions to support them in their efforts to decarbonize and reach their own climate targets – which are often more ambitious than national targets.

What measures and solutions are needed to really make progress?

There is no one size fits all since cities and municipalities have different requirements than industrial customers or private households. By providing affordable, clean, efficient and smart energy solutions to our customers, we make the energy transition accessible to everyone. This starts with the solar system and energy efficiency projects but also includes the use of hydrogen in industries and climate-neutral electricity and heating concepts for entire cities. Together with our customers – big and small – we avoid about 100 million tons of CO2 per year. This is good for the climate and improving people's lives. Ultimately, it’s about creating a future worth living.

What does E.ON contribute? Is there an example that is representative for how E.ON interprets its role as an enabler of the energy transition?

E.ON has a unique approach as an energy company: we believe that the best energy is energy not even used. In partnering with cities and municipalities we design integrated neighborhood solutions that reduce emissions by using resources more efficiently, for instance by recycling waste heat. We also consider that not only decarbonization is key to mitigate climate change, but that we also need adaptation measures. One innovative solution is the ectogrid™ technology. By connecting buildings with different needs and balancing residual thermal energy flows between them, E.ON ectogrid™ effectively uses and reuses all available thermal energy and makes it possible to decrease both pollution and the energy consumption in a city. This is a revolution that will help us fight climate change and transform the energy market. Only one thermal grid is needed, but it serves several purposes – thermal distribution for both heating and cooling as well as storage and flexibility.

Cities are also part of the bigger picture. What is needed for a successful energy transition?

The power generation sector has been the fastest to decarbonize so far. This is great, but considering the increasing electrification needed to make progress in decarbonizing heating and transport, further growth in renewables is required. The backbone of the energy transition is the power grid. As one of Europe’s largest grid operators we are aware of our responsibility in enabling the energy transition and providing the infrastructure for a sustainable and green future energy world. Finally, digitization is key to enable our grids to deal with the increasing requirements. Intelligent and smart grids are essential to handle the fluctuations and ensure flexibility. E-mobility is expected to increase significantly. This puts extra stress on the grids and we need to be able to steer and manage the load in the grids constantly, which can only be done digitally. Sustainability and digitization go hand in hand.

Ahead of COP26, many states raise their ambition levels for climate targets. The UK strives for 78% reduction of CO2 by 2030, Germany recently stepped up its target to a 65% reduction by 2030. What is needed in terms of the political and financial framework to support progress towards these goals?

We support the increasing ambition levels for climate targets across and beyond Europe. However, we also believe that more decisive action is required to meet those targets. In Germany, for example, approval procedures for wind and solar plants take far too long. We need more growth in renewables and fewer bureaucratic hurdles. What would also help to create a level playing field is a uniform CO2 price. Regarding the financial framework, investments need to be directed towards green and sustainable technologies and solutions. The EU Action Plan on Sustainable Finance and the EU Taxonomy are important elements in supporting the EU Green Deal and in redirecting private investments towards the transitions to a carbon neutral economy. The taxonomy establishes a shared understanding of what can considered sustainable activities, thereby creating security and comparability for investors.

Can you share what you think will be crucial for companies to be successful on course towards a net-zero world?

On a planet with finite resources, the only future possible is a sustainable one. This also means that companies won’t be doing business at all in future, if they don’t do it sustainably. At the same time, for E.ON, a sustainable business model is not about values, but about value. At E.ON, we approach sustainability holistically because it pays. This is in stark contrast to an opportunistic approach to sustainability if it pays. This enables us to spot the business opportunity in being a sustainability leader instead of the cost every transition bears. Considering these trends and requirements now will lead to significant competitive advantages in the long run.

Can you share an insight of how E.ON makes sure to approach sustainability holistically?

A great example is our ecological corridor management approach. As a distribution system operator, we maintain the vegetation below our overhead power lines in order to ensure that our infrastructure is not damaged. Usually, this is done by clear cutting the vegetation every couple of years. With ecological corridor management, we use a sustainable approach and thus combine security of supply with environmental protection. We allow slow-growing and low tree and shrub species to grow. Deadwood left lying around creates nesting and retreat opportunities for smaller animals and insects. Instead of monocultures, this creates valuable biotopes and habitats. Every meaningful action against climate change also has to prioritize healthy ecosystems. One is not possible without the other. In addition, communities also benefit from diverse vegetation. It has long been proven that more green spaces are needed to regulate the climate in urban areas in the face of rising temperatures caused by climate change.

Interested in exploring how we can build back better, support green jobs, and accelerate our path to net zero? Join us for the Climate Innovation Forum taking place June 29 - July 1 during London Climate Action Week by registering here.