Interview with Andrea Graf,
Project Manager Masterplan 100% climate protection, City of Frankfurt
100% Renewable Energy Goal:
100 percent reduction of carbon emissions by 2050.
[Read more about the project]
1. What inspired you to pursue your 100% renewable energy goal?
For decades, Frankfurt on Main has been working to protect the climate – and has therefore been involved in the energy transition. Back in 1990, Frankfurt cofounded a European network called the Climate Alliance of European Cities with Indigenous Rainforest Peoples, whose goal is to protect the global climate. Today, it brings together more than 1,500 member communities from 18 European countries to reduce greenhouse gas emissions locally.
Frankfurt on Main founded one of the first municipal energy and climate protection agencies, which has been promoting a comprehensive energy management scheme since 1985. The city is a member of Energie Cities und Eurocities, has conducted a wide range of projects at the European level, and is a member of the Covenant of Mayors. Frankfurt updates its energy and carbon footprint annually, with the goal being a 100 percent reduction of carbon emissions by 2050. Already, emissions have been reduced by 15 percent since 1990 even though the economy has grown by more than 50 percent – and office floor area by more than 80 percent.
The city has been Finalist in the 2004 European Green Capital Award Competition.
For us, climate protection means combining global environmental protection with local action for sustainable business.
2. What mix of technologies have you used and/or do you intend to use? Why have you made these choices?
A mix of climate-friendly, highly efficient energy production and conservation are important building blocks towards a 100 percent supply of renewable energy.
Frankfurt on Main sees itself as a city of energy efficiency, with the most Passive House buildings (schools, kindergartens, and residential buildings) and the most efficient office complexes. Our energy policy priority is to expand cogeneration with large power plants to provide heat along with more than 200 small cogeneration units; after all, cogeneration is roughly 30 percent more efficient than power plants whose waste heat is not used.
Within the city, renewable energy comes from solar thermal, photovoltaics, wind power, and three percent organic waste. Frankfurt also works with nearby communities to get more of its energy supply from wind power, solar energy, and biomass.
For some time now, the city has pursued a "virtual power plant" project with cogeneration units. Here, a large number of small power generators are interconnected in a swarm to compensate for fluctuations in the production of renewable energy to ensure a reliable power supply.
3. What have been the greatest obstacles so far? If you have overcome any of them, how did you do it?
The critical voices within the city in the beginning were eventually won over because projects went well, the work done was competent and successful, and we communicated everything properly. Model projects were launched to show, for instance, that even heritage buildings can be insulated.
Other obstacles include federal and state energy laws that are not optimally designed for a switch to 100 percent renewables. For instance, in 2010 the federal government extended the commissions of nuclear plants. Central-station power plants are a major problem in the Energiewende. They conflict with the concept of distributed supply from a large number of small generators. After the terrible nuclear accident in Fukushima, the government reacted to public pressure and changed the law again.
Now, we need to change construction laws and rental laws so that they no longer conflict with the energy conservation goals needed for the energy transition.
4. Were any policies particularly effective in helping your project advance? Did any stand in your way, and if so, how did you react?
The City of Frankfurt succeeded in its climate protection goals because of the great openness across party lines in the city's politics and in the general public in supporting a modern, climate-friendly energy supply.
Politicians and citizens alike quickly realized that climate protection goals not only lead to cleaner air, but also economic growth. Back in 1990, the city set up a municipal climate protection agency. It has since created and implemented climate protection concepts.
On March 1, 2012, the City Council decided to set up a masterplan about how to transfer Frankfurt to be supplied by 100 percent renewables by 2050. That goal made the city eligible "100 percent climate protection master plan," a showcase project of the German government. The City of Frankfurt will bundle its climate protection action and launch new activities towards a 100 percent supply by renewables.
5. What have been the greatest benefits of your project so far?
The City of Frankfurt is not acting alone. The city's energy and climate protection concept was worked up in close collaboration with the Frankfurt/Rhine/Main region, the Regional Association, and the State of Hesse. We are already a member of "100 percent renewable regions / 100 percent urban." Frankfurt am Main mainly gets industry and banks involved via the Ökoprofit project and a LEEN network. Overall, 100 million euros have been saved here since 1990, clear evidence that climate protection is insurance against rising energy costs.
Likewise, a wide range of citizens and businesses are involved thanks to intensive public relations work. One recent project is an example of this great success – the city's citizens worked with pupils in energy conservation campaigns at schools to lower energy costs by around two million euros annually already, with the schools getting 50 percent of the offset costs back directly.
The City of Frankfurt's previous success in climate protection is yet another benefit. In 2008, per capita CO2 emissions came in at 11.8 tons per resident, a figure that includes the residential sector, businesses, the chemicals industry, and the airport's ground emissions. Since 1987, emissions have fallen by 14.8 percent, with the CO2 emissions of municipal properties dropping by more than 30 percent since 1990.
6. What has the process been of financing your project?
Germany currently still gets most of its energy from fossil fuels and generally from four large energy firms, but that will change as we switch to renewables, which can be produced and sold locally and regionally. In addition to protecting the climate, the switch to 100 percent renewable energy thus also positively impacts the local economy.
The goal of financing is to find the right way of conserving and producing energy. Minor additional costs for energy efficiency can be funded in the beginning from various national, regional, and local budgets, and they pay for themselves quickly when energy costs drop as a result.
Against this backdrop, the City of Frankfurt enabled the financing of numerous climate protection projects with additional support from the State of Hesse and the federal government. Federal funding was provided for the master plan for 100 percent climate protection.