In anticipation of a possible Russian gas supply stop, politicians have already appealed to save significantly more energy. There is great potential for this in industry – but it’s not that easy.

In the opinion of the German electrical and digital industry, higher energy efficiency and more energy saving are at least as important as the expansion of the green electricity network.

The side of the more intelligent use of existing energy often fades into the background compared to the side of more climate-friendly generation, said the President of the ZVEI industry association, Gunther Kegel, before the start of the Hannover Messe industrial show.

It is important to consider: “The proportion of electricity that we want to save in this way by 2045 is higher than the proportion that we can build from renewable sources. However, these savings must not be accompanied by a drop in production output.” Society must control the energy transition in such a way that the transformation can be paid for.

Putting on a sweater is not enough

The Hanover Fair, which opens on Sunday evening, is primarily about technologies for “intelligent”, energy-efficient production and thus also direct or indirect CO2 reduction. Kegel emphasized that a lot can be achieved by better management of available energy. But: «It is not enough to say: People, put on a sweater! In many commercial properties, heating energy is not the crucial part. The decisive factors are the production processes as such, for which we have so far needed fossil materials both as an energy supplier and as a component of production, for example in the chemical or steel industry.»

The planned electrification of many production steps instead of using coal or gas and the use of hydrogen could lead to “much higher efficiency” with significantly better efficiency. “In solar power, for example, you get the electricity directly – and you don’t have any major conversion losses like in a fossil power plant, for example. A decision has actually already been made for the majority of the passenger car market: In the future, drives must primarily be battery-electric. CO2 reduction and higher energy efficiency are two issues that are directly related.”

“Industry 4.0”

Concerning the concepts for “Industry 4.0”, the picture in Germany is still mixed, said Kegel. «There are many companies that want to go completely digital, including factory buildings and plants. In some companies, however, the interfaces are still predominantly analogue. So it’s about integrating the technology piece by piece into digital networks.» In this way, the use of energy, raw materials and preliminary products can be optimized.

Kegel does not see that Germany is lagging behind in the digitization of its industry. “There will certainly be some companies that will not be able to fully digitize their existing factory buildings and machinery,” he said, also with regard to the necessary further qualification and the change in the working world.

“Frequently, completely converting old systems is not worthwhile. But at the same time we have many customers who are running a dramatically fast digitization program for new buildings.» On the other hand, there are more cyber attacks on production. “We need new security concepts before we continue to digitize more and more.”