Photo: Yuri Junkov, Lörrach

“We want to dri­ve the trans­for­ma­tion of our soci­ety into the new ener­gy world”
Daniel Schölder­le (NaturEn­ergie) in con­ver­sa­tion with Startup|Energy

Mr. Schölder­le, you have been active in the Ger­man ener­gy mar­ket for many years and now head the Sales + Ener­gy Eco­nom­ics divi­sion at the Energie­di­enst Group. What exact­ly does Ener­gy Ser­vice do?
Energie­di­enst has been devel­op­ing sus­tain­able and eco­log­i­cal ener­gy solu­tions for more than a hun­dred years. We have grown up with the con­struc­tion and oper­a­tion of hydropow­er plants on the Rhine, in the Black For­est and in Switzer­land. Since 1999, we have been sup­ply­ing pri­vate and indus­tri­al cus­tomers under the NaturEn­ergie brand with 100% green elec­tric­i­ty from our pow­er plants and, as a region­al sup­pli­er, we also oper­ate a large part of the elec­tric­i­ty grids in South Baden.

By the way, we were one of the first ener­gy com­pa­nies to dis­trib­ute green elec­tric­i­ty nation­wide. Today, we con­tin­ue to live this pio­neer­ing spir­it at Energie­di­enst. Since 2020, we have also been work­ing as one of the first ener­gy sup­pli­ers in Ger­many to work in a cli­mate-neu­tral manner.

At Energie­di­enst, they live on the eco­log­i­cal pio­neer­ing spir­it of their pre­de­ces­sors. What will be the focus of the next few years and how will the Ener­gy Ser­vice Group be involved in this?
We believe that organ­i­cal­ly gen­er­at­ed elec­tric­i­ty is the oil of the future. That is why six years ago, togeth­er with Stadt­mo­bil in Freiburg, we built a cli­mate-neu­tral car shar­ing sys­tem with elec­tric cars and a charg­ing infra­struc­ture in south Baden with my-e-car. Since 2019, we have been pro­duc­ing green hydro­gen at our hydropow­er plant in Wyhlen.

We are also work­ing inten­sive­ly on a cli­mate-neu­tral heat sup­ply in the heat sec­tor. Between Rhe­in­felden and Basel, we are work­ing with indus­tri­al com­pa­nies to inves­ti­gate how we can use waste heat from indus­tri­al process­es for the heat sup­ply of house­holds. We also devel­op intel­li­gent solu­tions for opti­mal net­work­ing and con­trol of PV sys­tems, heat stor­age sys­tems, bat­tery stor­age and charg­ing points for elec­tric vehi­cles in the house­hold sector.

Until 20 years ago, green elec­tric­i­ty came only from hydro­elec­tric pow­er plants. This has changed mas­sive­ly in recent years. How do you per­son­al­ly feel about this devel­op­ment and what do you expect for the future?
Although the eeg’s ini­tial high rates of sup­port for wind and solar instal­la­tions will con­tin­ue to place a high bur­den on elec­tric­i­ty con­sumers, I believe that the devel­op­ment towards renew­able ener­gies is a great suc­cess. In 2020, renew­able ener­gies gen­er­at­ed more elec­tric­i­ty for the first time than all fos­sil-fuel pow­er plants com­bined. The cost of solar pow­er has been reduced from more than 40 cents per kilo­watt hour to 4 cents in 20 years. The pace towards a ful­ly renew­able elec­tric­i­ty sup­ply will con­tin­ue to accel­er­ate in the com­ing years as a back-up to this low gen­er­a­tion cost.

In the trans­port and heat sec­tor, how­ev­er, we are clear­ly lag­ging behind this pleas­ing devel­op­ment from the elec­tric­i­ty sec­tor. How­ev­er, the heat­ing and trans­port sec­tor account for about 75% of ener­gy con­sump­tion in Ger­many. For me, there­fore, sec­tor cou­pling and inno­v­a­tive trans­port and heat solu­tions are the cen­tral build­ing blocks for the suc­cess of the ener­gy transition.

What do you see as the biggest chal­lenge on the way to a decen­tral­ized and renew­able ener­gy world in the com­ing years?
For me, it is the law that elec­tric­i­ty pro­duc­tion from water, wind and solar plants will be by far the cheap­est way to gen­er­ate renew­able ener­gy in the future. The cen­tral chal­lenge will be to trans­form the ener­gy sys­tem so that we can cope with fluc­tu­at­ing pro­duc­tion at all times. This requires intel­li­gent net­work­ing of many decen­tral­ized feed­ers and con­sumers. Here I rely on inno­v­a­tive solu­tions, for exam­ple in the charg­ing man­age­ment of elec­tric cars or in the con­trol of heat pumps and bat­tery stor­age. This will be an excit­ing field of activ­i­ty for inno­v­a­tive start-ups.

You are one of the impor­tant spon­sors of Startup|Energy. What prompt­ed you to do so? The pro­mo­tion of star­tups has not been an activ­i­ty of ener­gy services.
Our goal as an ener­gy ser­vices group is to dri­ve the trans­for­ma­tion of our soci­ety into the new ener­gy world through cli­mate-neu­tral, sim­ple and inno­v­a­tive ener­gy solu­tions for our cus­tomers. That’s why we are very hap­py to sup­port star­tups that share the same vision with us. Per­son­al­ly, I was inspired by the idea of pro­mot­ing exchanges between East Africa and Ger­many on an equal foot­ing and on an equal foot­ing. I am con­vinced that we in Ger­many can learn a great deal about decen­tralised ener­gy sup­ply sys­tems from East Africa. Even if we do not have our own sep­a­rate inno­va­tion area, we are con­stant­ly on the look­out for new ideas. This means that future sup­port for star­tups is quite conceivable.

From which area of the eight top­ics approved at the Ener­gy Camp do you want excit­ing start-up ideas?
This is not an easy ques­tion, because many of the top­ics are of inter­est to us as an ener­gy sup­pli­er, which for many years has been syn­ony­mous with safe and eco­log­i­cal sup­plies to the region. These include, in par­tic­u­lar, pro­duc­tion from renew­able ener­gy sources, “resilience engi­neer­ing”, new stor­age sys­tems or ener­gy dis­tri­b­u­tion. How­ev­er, good mea­sure­ment and con­trol sys­tems are becom­ing increas­ing­ly impor­tant as renew­able gen­er­a­tion becomes more and more volatile. That is why I per­son­al­ly wish for many valu­able ideas from this envi­ron­ment. I am very much look­ing for­ward to the com­pe­ti­tion and look­ing for­ward to the designs.

Thank you very much, Mr Schölder­le, for the interview.