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Impulse #5: Emergence of climate neutrality

28 May 2021

Once a month, Manfred Schmitz, CEO of ENGIE Deutschland, shares his views on current topics. The fifth issue of his column focuses on climate neutrality.

Sometimes you read a small sentence that sticks in your memory for a long time. This is what happened to me this past week. "Our special report shows the pathway to net zero by 2050 is narrow but still achievable if governments act now", tweeted Fatih Birol, Executive Director of the International Energy Agency (IEA) during the presentation of the world's first phased plan for the global energy sector. If governments act immediately ... Are they doing this? A few months ago, China, the largest producer of CO2, announced that it wanted to become climate-neutral by 2060. A few weeks ago, U.S. President Joe Biden reported back at a virtual climate summit with revised climate targets for 2050. And finally, just a few days ago, the German government tightened up its climate targets; we want to achieve climate neutrality in this country as early as 2045, five years earlier than planned.

Economy, politics and society are facing a historic challenge.
We can only take the path to a climate-neutral future together.

Technology and innovation as key to climate protection

In other words, international climate policy is on the move. However: The mere promise of ambitious climate targets is not enough. These commitments must also be kept. This is not about whether, but rather about how. I think that must be done - at long last! - a stronger focus than before. The alarm level for this is set at red - even dark red, I think. In my view, the path of renunciations and prohibitions and, as a consequence, a probable lowering of living standards will by no means bring about the desired success; on the contrary, we will lose the support of very many people. I am convinced that we will achieve much more if we work hard to develop climate-friendly technologies and promote innovation – in Germany, in Europe and around the world. We should find smart solutions to reduce emissions while maintaining our standard of living. The 900 experts in the eight research centers in the ENGIE Group are also working on this goal, and we are working on this in projects with our customers.

More effort for climate protection - but how?

Let us take a closer look at the situation in Germany. 2045 may sound far away; That is by no means the case. Climate neutrality by 2045 means that companies must align their current investments in plants, buildings and infrastructure with this goal. From many conversations with clients, I know that this fact is currently very much in the spotlight of many economic decision-makers. This is because large infrastructure projects in particular, but not only, are generally designed for time horizons of more than 24 years. Which technology should you rely on to operate profitably and sustainably? Let me give you just one example. Green hydrogen is in many ways a central element for a renewable and sustainable energy system, but at the moment this technology is still largely in the pilot phase. So what are the alternatives?

About Impulse

Once a month, Manfred Schmitz, CEO of ENGIE Deutschland, shares his view on current topics in our column Impulse.

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Investing sustainably in the future

I would be only too happy to present the patent solution for this to you at this point with loud drum rolls. However, such a system simply does not exist. However – and this is the good news – there are already promising technologies today, whose economic use depends on the respective application. At ENGIE Deutschland, we therefore focus on an individual approach to a sustainable energy future. And not just since today: For years, ENGIE has been making the "Zero Carbon Transition as a Service" strategy its own claim to guide customers with environmentally friendly products and services in their transition to climate neutrality. "Zero Carbon" preoccupies and moves us, "Zero Carbon" is part of our DNA. We are not thinking in terms of climate promises, but in terms of implementation, and we have developed the "Real Zero" plan with five stages, by means of which companies can reliably achieve climate neutrality. With our expertise, we stand as a partner for all companies and organizations that, on the basis of today's technical possibilities, have to make decisions in an environmentally and economically promising framework of tomorrow. This includes taking into account appropriate funding opportunities for green investments by the city, country, state and/or European Union, advising our customers on suitable programs and, if desired, taking over the complete handling. Please contact our specialists if you need help!

Climate neutrality: now!

Dear readers: on the road to climate neutrality, we certainly often will have to think in terms of transitional solutions at this stage. This is how we also proceed internally at ENGIE Deutschland. To give you an example: We focus on using gas as efficiently as possible. For example, at our subsidiaries Energie SaarLorLux, where we are implementing the coal phase-out in Saarbrücken with the construction of the new gas engine power plant Römerbrücke (GAMOR) in 2022, and Energieversorgung Gera, where we have converted the district heating structure and built combined heat and power plants with a total of nine gas-fired combined heat and power plants (CHP) and six gas boiler plants. And globally, the ENGIE Group sees an integrated approach to energy systems, combining renewable energy with renewable gas, as the key to ensuring resilience, security of supply and decarbonization. Thanks to our many years of experience in the field of electricity and gas, our ambition is to act as an "early mover" in the development of future-oriented solutions – for us and for our customers worldwide.

Signaling effect for climate-neutral action

We can only achieve this progress step by step. Continuous optimization, maximizing energy efficiency – that is the first step in ENGIE Deutschland's "Real Zero" plan, and our team consistently implements this for customers such as Ritter Sport. Where no CO2 is produced, no CO2 needs to be saved or neutralized. Every step towards more energy efficiency and less CO2 is important on the path to climate neutrality. And above all, we need every step, because achieving the climate targets will be a feat of strength and a gigantic change process for all of us. Economy, politics and society are facing a historic challenge. The phased plan for the global energy sector of the IEA makes the situation clear without a doubt: "Despite the current gap between rhetoric and reality on emissions, our roadmap shows that there are still pathways to reach net zero by 2050. The one on which we focus is – in our analysis – the most technically feasible, cost-effective and socially acceptable. Even so, that pathway remains narrow and extremely challenging, requiring all stakeholders – governments, businesses, investors and citizens – to take action this year and every year after so that the goal does not slip out of reach.”

In this sense, the report can be seen as a wake-up call. I hope that this will be a signal, a departure towards climate neutrality. The world needs to step up to the plate. The path to a climate-neutral future is narrow and challenging, and we can only do it together. We have a tough but inescapable job ahead of us. What do you see as the most important lever in this process? Please share your assessment with me at

warmest regards

Your Manfred Schmitz
CEO ENGIE Deutschland

Our Expert

Manfred Schmitz
Once a month, Manfred Schmitz, CEO of ENGIE Deutschland, shares his view on current topics in our column Impulse.

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