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Oil CEO on the investments in renewable energy: Our dream risks becoming a nightmare

Europe needs Norwegian energy now more than ever, says Rainer Seele in the oil company Wintershall.

The top management in Norwegian and German oil companies were in the early hours of Friday gathered in stylish surroundings at Ekebergrestauranten in Oslo. With German precision and elegance the guests, both ambassadors, analysts, CEOs and politicians, witnessed a conference out of the ordinary. 

Greater need than ever

Host and Wintershall CEO Rainer Seele went straight to the point when he opened the breakfast seminar on shale gas' growing impact on the energy market.

- The age of fossil fuels, particularly natural gas, is far from over. From a global standpoint, we need fossil fuels to protect our lives; our education and prosperity, not only Europe but the entire world depend on these energy sources. Now more than ever, says Seele.

The International Energy Agency (IEA) estimates in its annual energy outlook that fossil fuels will still account for 75 percent of the demand growth in 2035, down from current 82 percent.

- Lack of rational thinking

The question is how to change the energy mix towards less polluting energy sources such as natural gas instead of coal -fired electricity, which halves the emissions for the same amount of energy.

Part of the challenge is that in Germany, politicians have grouped and defined all fossil fuels as almost unwanted, according to Seele. - In Germany, there is a growing lack of rational thinking, says the CEO.

This has led to massive investments in renewable energy sources, where one "dreams" of being able to live of sun and wind without any impact on your wallet or for the industry. This means that gas-driven power plants are shut down and conventional energy sources are not connected to the power grid, while billions in subsidies are pumped into renewable energy.

- The result is that today we have a mega power plant of renewable energy that dominates all other forms of power, but only from twelve o'clock until three o'clock. This is what we are now seeing in Germany, he says.

- Jobs in jeopardy
Meanwhile, energy prices are about to become a major competitive factor. The CEO thinks that European energy production is rapidly declining.

- Suddenly thousands of jobs are in jeopardy because we have lost sight of our goal, to reduce CO2 emissions. Our dream in Germany risks becoming a nightmare, he says. How can you otherwise explain that emissions are increasing, Seele asks. It is about increasing the efficiency of existing energy sources and thereby reduce pollution.

Must increase efficiency
Therefore, German authorities cannot ignore the opportunities in natural gas, he says.

- I am absolutely convinced that if Germany wants to bring back the efficiency in the market it can only be done with natural gas. External pressure can help us do it, and the shale gas boom has drawn the attention towards natural gas again, he says. Seele denies however that we will see a shale gas revolution in Germany or in Europe, like we have in the United States. Regardless, it will not be able to cover the demand gap, and the best we can hope for is an evolution, he says.

- The resistance is too big, the regulatory framework is too complex and ultimately the resources are too small. We will not be able to compensate for an import gap in the range of 1.89 billion cubic meters of natural gas that threatens the European Union (EU) as early as in 2035 through shale gas in Europe, says the CEO.

Europe is therefore dependent on a reliable and secure energy supply, and there Norway is the key, says Seele. - Norway's importance in the European energy mix will continue to grow. We are absolutely convinced, he says, alerts increased activity in Norway.

Source: 2nd December, 2013

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