Energy efficiency is the biggest, fastest and cheapest measure to fight climate change

Peter HennickeSt. Gallen, 23 May 2014 “Energy efficiency is the biggest, fastest and cheapest measure to fight climate change”, Peter Hennicke, former President of the Wuppertal Institute for Climate, Environment and Energy, said in his speech at the Energy Concept Congress, held at “Energiemesse 2014” in St. Gallen. Energy efficiency could be nothing less than 50% of the solution for the current energy problem and that the energy revolution (“Energiewende”) would be THE ecological modernization program par excellence in Europe and worldwide.

This was the main message of the Energy Concept Congress at OLMA Messen St. Gallen, organised by Energieagentur GmbH and WRF in cooperation with the Departments for Environment and Energy of both the city and canton of St. Gallen. The congress brought together 160 participants from politics, industry, governments, science and NGOs.

The congress was opened by Regierungsrat Willy Haag and Willy R. Gehrer, President of Geothermie Switzerland and board member of SATW, the Swiss Academy of Engineering Sciences. Willy Haag emphasized that both governmental instruments as well as self-responsibility by the citizens are needed to take the necessary steps. Willy Gehrer passed on the message that the energy revolution (Energiewende), as it is promoted by the Swiss government, is very well possible without restrictions in energy performance. However, power imports will be necessary to a certain extent, and new pump-storage power stations would have to be built.

Peter Hennicke showed that there are substantial macroeconomic benefits as a result of the energy revolution, with savings of 15 to 50 % for wind power and photovoltaics as compared to new nuclear power plants. There is still a tremendous potential for energy savings with regard to household appliances and insulation of buildings, along with remarkable monetary savings (win-win). Federal subsidies for energy-efficient measures are, according to Hennicke, beneficiary for the state, leading in the mid-term to an increasing number of companies, thousands of jobs, and through that to more tax money.

Roland StulzRoland Stulz from Novatlantis and the 2000-Watt-Society is convinced that there has never been a better moment to achieve the energy transition than the current. In his presentation on “From efficiency to lifestyle” he called for more sufficiency in our daily life. The last 40 years of discussions in the field of sustainability have brought a lot of expertise and knowledge; however, we have to implement the existing solutions. Roland Stulz is sure that carrying out projects to enhance energy efficiency and head towards the 2000-Watt society is not only necessary, but also provides a lot of fun. But efficiency is not enough, we also need sufficiency at an individual and societal level, without compromising our welfare. Roland Stulz’ thesis is that the less time we have at hand in our daily lives, the more we waste our resources.

The other two plenary speakers Bernhard Engesser from Jakob Müller AG and Thomas Gröbly from Neustart Schweiz spoke about the “Energy policy and its impact on the competition of companies” and “Multifunctional neighbourhoods as a model for a sustainable economy”. Gröbly asked the question whether our society is already “too-big-to-fail”, or whether we will find more sustainable lifestyles in the form of the commons.

Right before lunch, Gian Autenrieth presented South Pole Carbon, the company in Zurich who compensates all the CO2-emissions produced by the 160 participants attending the Energy Concept Congress. This includes travels, conference materials, logistics and catering activities. South Pole Carbon was/is already partner of the WRF conferences in Davos 2013 and Arequipa Peru in 2014.

The three workshops in the afternoon dealt with the topics “Energy competition among communities”, “Collaboration between communities and economy”, and “CO2 knows no limits”.

In workshop 3, organized by the World Resources Forum, the CO2 problem was discussed from a global as well as a local perspective, moderated by WRF’s new Program Director Mathias Schluep.

René Estermann, CEO of myclimate, called for “do your best – offset the rest”, pointing out that with a small amount of money, we can compensate CO2-emissions with projects in Switzerland and abroad. But the first step always has to be to reduce emissions.

Urs Capaul, head ecologist of the city of Schaffhausen in north-western Switzerland, showed clearly that climate change is already visible in central European cities, be it with increasing summer temperatures, more frequent floods, warmer rivers, Tiger mosquitos from the south, and increasing particulate matter in the inner city. Schaffhausen has been taking a number of measures to fight climate change, e.g. in form of extra water fountains, white house facades and pavements instead of dark colours to increase the reflection, storage water dams, tree plantation, or cool air streams from surrounding forest areas into the city.

Martin LehmannMartin Lehmann (WRF) showed the interconnection between resource use and greenhouse gas emissions, presenting the results of a study on CO2 in stocks by Prof. Daniel Müller from the Norwegian University of Technology. WRF and Empa have started project with the city of St. Gallen, where the CO2-emissions of the built infrastructure will be calculated and compared to the emissions caused by energy consumption and mobility. Concrete CO2-reduction measures for the city will be established.

The highlight of the day was the arena meeting of all the participants from the two concurrent congresses Energy concept/WRF and St. Galler Forum, where moderator Urs Leuthard asked critical questions about the topic “Energy Transformation 2.0 – Direction by the State or Bottom-up Revolution?”. Heinz Karrer, President of economiesuisse, Nick Beglinger, President of Swisscleantech, Federal Councillor Bastien Girod, and Fredy Brunner from the city council of St. Gallen had an intensive debate about what the government, the cantons, and the cities/communities can or should do to meet the goals of the energy transition by 2050.

Severin von HuenerbeinOikos students from the university of St. Gallen were given the chance to participate in the Energiekonzept-Kongress. Please find the report on their experiences here.

The next Energy Congress will take place at OLMA St. Gallen on May 21 and 22, 2015.

Photos: Robert Stuermer


WRF team at EnergieMesse