Nachhaltigkeitsbericht zu Umweltschutz, sozialem Engagement und Unternehmensführung (ESG)

More speed for a sustainable energy mix

Karin Arnold from the Wuppertal Institut and Thomas Gößmann, Managing Director of Thyssengas, talk about the green transformation of the Ruhr area and corporate responsibility, and look ahead to 2035.

Karin Arnold, the Wuppertal Institut's study examines the question of the Ruhr area's potential to be a green transformation pioneer in the industrial sector. How would you answer this question?

Karin Arnold: Being a native of the Ruhr area, I was delighted to contribute to the study. Especially given the common scepticism from people who say: Everything is grey and covered in coal dust. I always try to explain that it has not been like that for a long time.

As for the title of the study "Grünste Industrieregion der Welt" (greenest industrial region in the world), it basically sets a goal that goes well beyond ecological criteria, encompassing a much broader definition of the term "green". It is about all dimensions of sustainability – from the ecological to the social and the economic dimension. What is sustainable also needs to be economical. That is not a contradiction in terms. We see that industry here in North Rhine-Westphalia has set out on the right path, but there is still a long way to go.

Which measures do you see as being urgent?

Karin Arnold: The main thing is to pick up speed. We need to accelerate and improve things. And this requires policy-makers providing a suitable regulatory framework as soon as possible. A lack of regulatory certainty is currently one of the biggest obstacles.

Thomas Gößmann, these points may sound familiar to you, particularly the issue of permits. What do you consider the most effective levers to achieve the green transformation, especially in our industry, but also more broadly?

Thomas Gößmann: First of all, let us take a step back. Without industrial production there is no prosperity, without sustainability there is no livelihood. The link between sustainability and economic efficiency is quite clear. We as transmission system operators are the supporters, the enablers of green energy transformation. However, we do not get to decide which processes are transformed or what green production actually looks like. Our role is to transport gaseous molecules. I am particularly concerned with the speed at which we are carrying out the decarbonisation of our energy system. To achieve Germany's target of being climate neutral by 2045, we have to keep up a high pace.

The Ruhr area has already proven that it is capable of structural change. It is familiar with transformation processes. Does our region therefore have an advantage over other regions without this experience?

Karin Arnold: When I was working on the study, I actually thought to myself: Yes, we have proven before that we can change. But when we spoke to local mayors from the Ruhr area, the picture was a little different. Apparently, many of them have experienced the extensive process of structural change in a thoroughly ambivalent manner.
As far as the energy transition as a whole is concerned, many people seem to act according to the slogan: "Not in my backyard". In other words, everyone is in favour of the energy transition, but no one wants a pipeline through their own property. At this point, one thing becomes very clear: Getting people to embrace a specific goal along with precise steps has not yet been fully internalised. It is therefore crucial to continually engage in dialogue and explain all the necessary steps.

Hydrogen can make a major contribution to the green transformation. What do you think the energy mix will look like in the future?

Thomas Gößmann: I believe blue hydrogen, which is derived from natural gas, and CCS (carbon capture and storage) are crucial in achieving our goal. We need a mix of renewable energy, of biogas and of green and blue hydrogen – a mix that will enable us to have a competitive economy.

Karin Arnold: In the future, I believe green hydrogen is the way we need to go. However, in the meantime, I believe we cannot do without CCS. In cases where unavoidable emissions – such as process emissions from the steel and cement industry or waste incineration – occur, CO₂ storage facilities will be necessary. Moreover, there is no blueprint to suit all regions: There are regions where a large hydrogen pipeline is not planned in the near future, and where it is basically not viable from a systemic perspective. For these regions, we have to find alternative answers to ensure companies can also operate sustainably there.

With regard to corporate sustainability and responsibility: Where do you see potential for improvement in general and specifically for Thyssengas as an infrastructure operator?

Karin Arnold: It is of course up to every business to bear responsibility for ensuring that life on Earth continues to be possible and is pleasant. We are witnessing a shift towards sustainability in the industry throughout Germany and other developed countries. A culture of responsibility is definitely emerging.

Thomas Gößmann, where do you see Thyssengas as a company in 2035?

Thomas Gößmann: We are actively contributing to the energy transition and strive to benefit from our ideas and creativity. We have already developed a strategy for our hydrogen network. We are taking the lead, as we are quite sure: Sooner or later we will transport climate-neutral gases. I believe there is no way around it. As a responsible stakeholder, I do not want the company or myself to be accused of blocking progress.

We want to actively contribute to the sustainability goals and the green transformation – knowing full well that this also helps to secure our business model. If everything goes smoothly and the necessary permits come quickly, we should be well on the way to achieving our goals by 2035: We will have 1000 kilometres of hydrogen pipelines, several hundred kilometres of pipes for biogas and also some natural gas pipelines. We want to continue to transport all of these gases safely and reliably. That is how I envisage the future.

Dr Karin Arnold

is Co-Head of Research Unit Systems and Infrastructures at the renowned Wuppertal Institut. She is also one of the authors of a study on the transformation of the Ruhr area into the "greenest industrial region in the world". The study evaluates the Ruhr area's pioneering potential and identifies essential steps for the green transformation of the industrial area.