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.