What was the rationale behind Siemens Energy’s spinoff from Siemens AG, and the role you see the company playing in the global energy ecosystem?
We spinoff from the larger group in 2020 to create a holistic energy company, Siemens Energy. We provide everything in the energy space, from the beginning to the end, and support our customers throughout the transition to cleaner energy, whatever stage they happen to be in.. The spinoff helped us streamline; we were part of a conglomerate, which comes with a host of challenges. Our former CEO of Siemens AG Joe Kaeser prioritized focus over synergy and Siemens Energy was born
Siemens Energy is faster, more agile, and independent. We decide on our own where capital should be invested, including in 1 billion Euros annually in R&D. We can focus on delivering operationally for our customers and on developing long-term partnerships that help us tackle the energy transition. We are witnessing a global pandemic, multiple wars, and who knows when another crisis could be around the corner.
This is where we see our role, both in Europe and globally - as a rock, a reliable pure-play energy company that follows a clear strategy to decarbonize the energy industry and to electrify the world. We partner with our customers, not just to sell products but to help cocreate solutions.
Technology is a main driver to get us there, but is it shaping up fast enough to help governments and companies reach climate targets? What are some solutions you are offering?
I like to think in terms of evolution and revolution. Evolution is about finding a technological path to make current products more efficient, because the more efficient the product, the smaller the carbon footprint. Following this idea, The HL gas turbine (biggest we produce), has an efficiency of 63% - which is the highest efficiency on the market. This equates to less pollution. Plus, all our turbines will be 100% hydrogen ready by 2030. Likewise, we collaborate with a number of innovative startups. One example is Percepto in Israel, which uses drones that fly above power plants and detect potential malfunctions, allowing companies to do preventive maintenance.
Moving from energy production to transmission, we recently started work on an Interconnector project between Germany and the UK, enabling them to share up to 1.4 GW of renewables energy on each country’s needs. Technology is, for the most part, already available. It’s about scaling it up and moving at pace. And for that, I believe we need collaboration across industries and sectors.
And then there is revolution, which is where things get really exciting. For instance, in the realm of sector coupling, wherein we can take heat waste produced by the industry and by power generation and use it in an efficient manner. We are working with Vattenfall to create an eco-friendly heat pump project in Berlin for district heating. We have another innovative project, Haru Oni, with Porsche to produce synthetic e-fuels from renewable energy, which will then be used in Porsche cars.
You mentioned turbines being H2 ready by 2030, however in the meantime the Ukraine crisis has highlighted the strategic role that gas is still playing in ensuring energy security. How long do you think that will be the case for?
My personal view is let's go fully green as soon as we can, but that is just not possible yet. H2 is a definite part of our future, and we have partnered up with AirLiquide on a joint venture dedicated to creating a sustainable hydrogen economy in Europe. For the time being, though, we have the trilemma of keeping energy sustainable, affordable, and reliable, with emphasis on the latter. How long will it be until we move away from gas? Opinions are mixed, but I think a decade or so for Europe. Gas is necessary for the time being, including to keep the grids stable. We can also capture carbon emitted from gas-fired generation via (CCUS technology) and have options of blending gas with hydrogen so that it’s carbon footprint is less.
Gas technology is flexible and reliable, so an uncomfortable truth of the energy transition is that we need this fossil fuel. At least in the short to medium term. And in the meantime if we succeed in fully transitioning away from coal, that will already be a massive improvement.
You oversee Europe, which is a very diverse jurisdiction - what is the difference in appetite for new technologies between the various countries?
I oversee everything from the UK to Central Asia, to Israel, including Russia and Ukraine. Each country is going at its own pace. Western and Northern Europe are significantly more advanced in going green, whereas Poland is still getting 70% of its electricity from coal and moving more into gas technologies, similarly to Kazakhstan and Uzbekistan. One commonality amongst European countries is that they must all reinforce their grids. The bottlenecks are not caused by how much wind or solar energy we have the capacity to produce, but rather by the speed with which they can be integrated into the grid and the potential stability issues that renewables can cause through intermittency.
Each country also has the duty to carry honest discussions with its citizens about what going green actually entails, from mine closures and reskilling to certain goods and services becoming more expensive in the short term.
What do you want to achieve with priority for Siemens Energy Europe over the next two to three years?
My focus right now is on the Russian war in Ukraine and its implications on the energy industry. We have customers and employees there, and we must take care of them as best as we possibly can. This is the number one thing keeping me busy at the moment. We are also in talks to purchase Siemens Gamesa Renewable Energy (we own 67% of the company now) and help them recover financially, leveraging each other’s strengths to become an integrated energy technology company.
Longer term, I want us to develop more partnerships in Europe. Partnerships aimed at delivering net-zero technology.
Energy is one of the highest carbon intensity industries, so we have a lot to do. But, honestly, we can’t do it alone.
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