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An Interview with the Chief Executive of dena, the German Energy Agency

9/15/2017

By: Michelle Fleer

An Interview with the Chief Executive of dena, the German Energy Agency

© Deutsche Energie-Agentur GmbH (dena)

The expansion of renewable energy is a concern for a majority of Germans. A recent survey by the Renewable Energies Agency (AEE) revealed that 95% of all respondents find the expansion of renewables important or extremely important, thus, are in favor of the energy transition.

The German Center for Research and Innovation recently interviewed Andreas Kuhlmann, Chief Executive of dena, Germany’s center of expertise for energy efficiency, renewable energy sources, and intelligent energy systems. Before joining dena in 2015, Mr. Kuhlmann studied physics and economics in Germany and the US, and held positions at the German Association of Energy and Water Industries, the German Embassy in Stockholm, the European Parliament, the German Bundestag, and the Federal Ministry of Labour and Social Affairs.

In this interview, we asked Andreas Kuhlmann about recent developments in the energy sector, the impact of the energy transition on the German labor market and people’s lifestyles, and how dena contributes to the attainment of energy and climate policy objectives.

How will digitalization transform the energy sector within the next five years?

If I knew this in detail, I could probably make a lot of money. But seriously, digitalization will be a key tool to bring the growing number of decentralized parts of the energy world together in a smart and efficient way; from solar panels and wind engines to factories, offices, vehicles, and households. A key factor in the competition will be the ability to aggregate data and develop services that match the needs of consumers in a new way. A bottom-up perspective will become more and more important.

In which ways does the energy transition change the German labor market? Please provide some examples.

We are facing great structural changes in Germany. One thing is for sure, there will be a loss of jobs in several established industries – coal, energy supply, automobile. Many people are pointing that out. But the more important question is: How many new jobs will be created with new business models, for example in markets for energy efficiency, industry 4.0, digitalized services, renewable energies, smart systems. I see great potential in many areas. In Germany, for example, coastal areas that lost their economic base in ship building a long time ago are now becoming strongholds of the offshore wind industry.

How will the energy transition affect people’s lifestyle in the short and long term?

The energy transition, of course, aims at paving the way for a more sustainable lifestyle. But it will only succeed, if it also makes people’s lives easier and more convenient. The prospects are good, I think. With all the data that digitalization is making available, innovative companies will be able to provide us with what we need and will reduce CO2 emissions at the same time. It is the responsibility of politicians to set the right framework of regulations and to provide incentives for such a development. A key task, for example, is to give CO2 emissions a price tag that pushes markets in the right direction.

Is there a project within dena that you feel especially dedicated to?

That’s hard to say. Dena is working on so many exciting projects with so many different partners – from developing strategies for an integrated energy system with companies from different sectors, encouraging startups and investors to establish new business models to establishing best practice examples for building refurbishments or energy management in a factory. Therefore, I would say that the most exciting thing about dena is the great variety of projects and the spirit of the people who are working on them.

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