Gas Connect Austria at the Salzburg Europe Summit: Coronavirus crisis accelerates and delays climate efforts at the same time

Gas Connect Austria has recently become a proud partner of the Institute of the Regions of Europe (IRE). At the end of September, they organised the 16th Salzburg Europe Summit entitled ‘Europe, Solidarity and Peace’ and discussed the current impact of the Coronavirus pandemic on the social, economic and cultural life of Europe.

Among other high-profile guests, Gas Connect Austria’s Managing Director Harald Stindl discussed the theme ‘Is Coronavirus killing the Green Deal?’ at the podium. He gave assessments from the point of view of the energy industry about the Green Deal and tackling climate change. All panelists agreed that the Green Deal should not be sidelined by the current Coronavirus crisis, but that economic help should be in line with climate goals.

Europe as a (climate) model
Harald Stindl emphasised that Europe acts as a role model for the rest of the world and must therefore remain committed to the Green Deal. The targets should be clearly set for all countries and the volume of investment should not be underestimated. In order to reduce CO2 emissions by 55% by 2030, the EU needs to invest an additional €100 billion annually in the energy sector, according to its own impact assessment. For example, Austria consumed 270 TWh of fossil energy in 2019 – if 27 TWh can now be replaced by renewable energies by 2030, 90% will remain!

Massive investment in research and development is needed to tackle climate change. New technologies are too inefficient and too expensive so far – as an example: the gas network represents security of supply in Europe. It creates a seasonal balance compared to renewable energy sources which produce less efficiently in winter.

Energy can be stored in gas form for about €3 per megawatt hour in the corresponding infrastructure (gas storage). That is comparatively cheap, because with a battery the cost of storage is currently €200 per megawatt hour. All these financial resources are doubly difficult to provide, given the reduced budget margins caused by Covid-19.

Gas grid ready for transformation
Gas pipelines are ready for climate change, because what the energy customers of Gas Connect Austria order flows in them – whether it is biogas, hydrogen or conventional natural gas. Internal investigations are currently underway to evaluate how much hydrogen content can flow through the existing pipelines. The industry assumes 10%, but initial results suggest that even up to 20% is possible – but unified legal regulations are needed.

Climate change: Austria’s 2030 goalfeasible
On the question “Will we have achieved our climate targets in ten years”, Harald Stindl is optimistic.   It is possible that Austria will generate 27 TWh of energy from renewable sources, using new technologies and innovative systems. For Harald Stindl, whether the European Union achieves its target (55% less CO2 emissions by 2030) depends on how much economic pressure comes from other countries such as the USA and China, but also on whether, for example, a CO2 tax is introduced on consumption and how this will be distributed (keyword “We will not leave anyone behind”).

Panelists were: Peter Giffinger, CEO of Austria Saint-Gobain, President of respACT; Michaela Kaniber, Bavarian Minister of State for Food and Agriculture; Helga Kromp-Kolb, Climate Researcher, Centre for Global Change and Sustainability at BOKU Vienna; Michael Staudinger, Director of ZAMG - Central Institute for Meteorology and Geodynamics; Harald Stindl, President of Gas Transmission Europe, Managing Director of Gas Connect Austria; Michael Strugl, Assistant Chair of VERBUND AG. The discussion was moderated by Rainer Nowak, Editor-in-Chief, Die Presse.

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