After Osborne Clarke Partner Christoph Torwegge opened the conference, Nicholas Teller, Honorary British Consul in Hamburg briefly gave an account of his background and expertise in the wind energy sector. He worked for 26 years with Commerzbank and at that time was pivotal in setting up Commerzbank’s Wind Energy Centre of Competence in Hamburg, moving existing wind energy financing models to a global level.
Head of Osborne Clarke’s Energy practice, Dr Alexander Dlouhy then took the floor to elaborate on what was meant by “Smart Solutions”. He explained that the industry is experiencing a shift in business models that also have severe repercussions within the legal realm. In particular, the shift from pure energy consumers to ‘Prosumers’ in a wider context, i.e. former consumers that – with the advent of new technologies like photo-voltaics, smart grid applications and energy recovery – also become (electrical) power producers. These new ‘prosumers’ need to be catered for by offering feed-in rights and conditions not only opening completely new realms of necessary technology, such as smart grids, but also new approaches in the legal world.
Jörn Splanemann, Executive at Schneider Electric, spoke on ‘Management of Distributed Energy Resources’. Former energy distribution concepts will give way to a different solution. Energy grids, for example, will have to cater for a less centralised power generation, for less predictable energy flows, for power surpluses and shortages. In short, the industry must adapt to move towards highly flexible systems. The solution could be a) smart grids and b) intelligent markets.
Simon Brett, Associated British Ports, gave a hands-on example of an on-going project. The Green Port of Hull, which, after a dedicated investment by Siemens to build offshore wind turbine blades in the port area, has to enhance the overall infrastructure and attract the relevant suppliers in the supply chain to Hull. The project is in its early stages but Simon is confident that the concept that looks at combining political support with entrepreneurial attitude will succeed.
Trine Borum Bojsen, Managing Director Germany at Dong Energy, Denmark’s largest wind energy company, spoke on “Offshore Wind – Backbone of the European Energy Transition”. For off-shore wind there is the important need to bring down costs. This, said Trine, cannot be achieved by solely putting pressure on the supply chain but by closely looking at sites, stepping up the volumes and by standardisation.
Ralf Schürkamp, Managing Director Onshore Wind at RWE Innogy, focused on the shift from subsidy regulation to market mechanics. He expects more changes in the energy market, with new models to be developed that can exist without further State subsidies.
Charles Dugué, the CEO of 8.2 Consulting, discussed ‘New Challenges for National Grids’. Renewable energies are currently seen and experienced as not wholly reliable source of energy, as opposed to Nuclear Power. The inherent lack of reliability of wind and solar requires smart grid solutions or mathematical prediction models that make forecasts workable. Smart grids on the other hand also require more IT, thus making grids potentially a subject of cyber-attacks.
The event was rounded off with a podium discussion, with a focus on the market mechanics, i.e. free market competition vs. subsidies. The panellists arrived at the clear verdict that the industry cannot work without competition and free market and that subsidies, particularly in the onshore wind industry, are being discontinued and that it is up to the industry to adapt to the on-going changes. It was commonly accepted that renewables are one of the big steps to reduce the overall CO2 footprint.
The outcome of the conference once again highlighted that a regular exchange of information contributes to promote further developments in the renewable energy sector.