Mr Liebert, Volkswagen will be supporting investments in the expansion of solar and wind energy on a grand scale. What is the strategy behind it?
Liebert: Climate protection is a central pillar of our strategy. All activities that are currently being planned and implemented have to align with our guiding principle – the Way to Zero. In order to achieve these targets we need to look at the entire life cycle of our vehicles and take action in the key focus areas. The most effective measure here is to electrify the drive system, and this has the greatest impact if our e-vehicles are charged with electric power generated from renewable energy sources.
To make sure this happens, we’re helping to drive forward the energy transition. Our goal is to ensure that all the electric power our e-fleet needs on the road comes from renewable sources. Firstly, we’ll be offering our customers various charging scenarios – green power contracts at home – for instance with Elli in Germany – and green power on the move with IONITY, our high-power charging network. Secondly, we’ll be enabling investments in additional wind and solar parks in Europe based on long-term purchase agreements with partners in the energy industry such as RWE.
Ms Dotzenrath, agreements have already been concluded on the first projects with RWE. What is planned?
Dotzenrath: One thing that has emerged especially clearly from this cooperation is that electric mobility and renewable energy are two sides of the same coin. There can’t be a sustainable transport transition without green power. RWE is one of the world’s largest producers of green electricity, while Volkswagen is one of the biggest carmakers. Together, we have both the will and the capability to make an important contribution here. Initially, RWE will be procuring large quantities of green power for Volkswagen from one of Germany’s biggest solar parks. We’re also planning renewable energy projects of our own that will receive a powerful boost through supply contracts with Volkswagen.
What concrete form will the cooperation between Volkswagen and RWE take? And what will follow after the first step?
Liebert: There are a number of projects we intend to promote in collaboration with partners from the energy sector. Many of these are still at the planning stage – so we’re particularly pleased to have been able to conclude an agreement with RWE on the first project. Volkswagen is supporting this project financially, RWE is implementing it. The contract term here is initially ten years. To be specific, we’re talking about the biggest independently operated solar park in Germany. It is being built in Tramm-Göthen in Mecklenburg and is entirely unsubsidised. When it is completed at the end of 2021, almost 420,000 modules will convert sunlight into electricity, with a total annual capacity of 170 gigawatt hours.
Why is RWE involved in this project, Ms Dotzenrath?
Dotzenrath: E-mobility links the energy and automotive sectors – two domains that were largely separate from each other beforehand. Now we’re joining forces to drive forward the energy and transport transition – a perfect example of integrated energy management. Large-scale purchasers of green power such as Volkswagen help ensure that new wind and solar projects can come to fruition. In addition to state funding mechanisms, this type of collaborative venture is an important additional financing option for the expansion of green power. And that’s not all. We would like to work more closely together on storage solutions as well – and we have the capability to do so.
Volkswagen is aiming to achieve carbon-neutral mobility. What is the role of the energy transition towards renewable electricity in this connection?
Liebert: If we don’t power our electric cars with clean electricity, we won’t be able to achieve a sufficient reduction in CO2. It’s crucial for all economies to build a strong renewable energy sector as quickly as possible. The faster the energy mix shifts in this direction, the greater the benefit of electromobility in terms of climate protection. This is why it has to be a political priority to bring about the energy transition as quickly as possible.
RWE wants to play a leading role in the energy transition. What has to happen in Germany in order to be able to achieve green power expansion targets?
Dotzenrath: By the end of the decade, 65 per cent of electricity consumption in Germany is to come from renewable energy sources. A much higher level of momentum and speed is needed to achieve this goal – especially since numerous experts are predicting that electricity demand will rise due to increasing electrification. So massive expansion is required in Germany in terms of renewable energy production, grids and storage facilities. This will not happen on its own: there are lots of challenges to be tackled at this stage, such as achieving greater acceptance of onshore wind power, increasing the amount of space available for both onshore and offshore wind power production and accelerating approval procedures.
At the same time, competition for investments in renewable energy worldwide is fierce – all the more so in the wake of the decisions taken by the EU Commission and the announcements made by US President Biden at the climate summit. For Germany, this means we need a regulatory framework – especially for offshore wind – that really does ensure expansion, and at the lowest possible cost. Along with virtually the entire industry, RWE is therefore advocating a tender design based on so-called Contracts for Difference, or CfDs for short. This system works very well in the UK, as it does in Poland and France. We have to make sure we don’t drop behind here.
Mr Liebert, if Volkswagen customers charge their e-car exclusively using green electricity, what CO2 reduction do they achieve?
Liebert: Compared to a conventional model powered by a combustion engine over a distance of 200,000 kilometres, the ID.3 definitely has a positive carbon footprint. Run on an average EU electricity mix, its footprint will be smaller than the conventional model after 125,000 kilometres. If it is charged with green power, the benefit kicks in at 56,000 kilometres.