Kassel. The world is undergoing a major upheaval. And this will have a huge impact on the global energy markets and, as a consequence, on climate protection. Professor Karl Rose, Senior Director Scenarios and Policies at the World Energy Council, describes the major challenges for the global energy supply and the development of the energy market in Germany.
Mr. Rose, the World Climate Conference in Paris just recently ended. What are your thoughts on the global climate objectives?
First of all: global climate protection is extremely important. Every possible effort in this scope should be welcomed. However, I am very skeptical that the two-degree target can really be achieved. We always look at energy supply from a European point of view. But if you take a global perspective, it becomes apparent that our energy consumption simply cannot be covered with renewables alone.
So what does the future of the energy supply look like?
We can see several trends. On the one hand, there is strong growth in photovoltaics. Costs have already fallen so significantly that solar technology will make up 30 to 50 percent of the global energy mix by 2050. At the same time, we will see renewed interest in nuclear power. There are already new nuclear power plants in planning or under construction in many countries. In addition, the US will continue to expand its competitive advantage with low energy costs. Natural gas will also continue to significantly expand its position in the energy mix. It is storable and always available. For this reason, we expect increased consumption worldwide.
What developments do you see for Germany?
The energy landscape will continue to evolve. About half of the energy companies now in existence will disappear from the market over the coming years – and this development won't impact only small companies. There will be stronger competition between natural gas and renewables in the heating market. And we see only one solution for gas-fired power plants: since the market in this segment no longer works, and this won't change in the medium-term, all that's left is to dismantle the plants. It's quite an absurdity.
Germany is considered a trailblazer in the energy shift. Can the objectives and implementation simply be transferred to other countries?
Absolutely not. That’s not conceivable at all globally speaking. For renewables, a back-up system of 80 to 90 percent is needed. Poorer countries simply cannot afford that. And in Germany, there is the social issue: the effects of the energy shift, such as rising energy costs, create an enormous disadvantage for socially weak groups. They need to pay a much higher share of their income for energy.
And how does it look with regard to energy efficiency? Cuts must be easy to make overall, right?
The situation isn't so simple here either. There is strong population growth in most regions. That alone has reversed efforts to save energy. And it is simply unrealistic to have savings targets of 80 percent. That doesn't even account for the fact that, in the coming years, a large share of the world's population won't even have any access to the energy supply.
Where do you see potential for climate protection?
With respect to CO2, the greatest problem is coal. By phasing out the use of coal, we could easily make substantial cuts in CO2 emissions. Reductions would also be easy to make in the transportation segment. In the shipping industry, for instance: the biggest 300 tankers emit as much CO2 as some 200,000 cars – and the numbers are much worse when you look at sulfur emissions. Converting these 300 ships would contribute more to global climate protection than would many energy savings measures in private households.