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European chemical makers call for more renewable energy

Industry calls for EU renewable energy regulations to be streamlined and harmonized across the region

by Alex Scott
June 10, 2021 | A version of this story appeared in Volume 99, Issue 22


Photo of a petrochemical cracker heated by electricity.
Credit: BASF
BASF says it will need substantially more renewable energy to implement low-carbon projects such as heating its ethylene crackers with electricity instead of fossil fuels.

European chemical producers may not be able to meet their carbon emission reduction goals because the region is installing renewable energy capacity too slowly, according to industry leaders.

“We need all the renewable electrons that we can get,” Marco Mensink, director general of the European Chemical Industry Council, or Cefic, told delegates at SolarPower Summit 2021, a virtual conference. Cefic wants European regulations for renewable energy to be streamlined so that capacity can be added more quickly.

Much of Europe’s renewable energy increase will be in the form of wind energy. But its installation of wind energy is running at half the rate needed if the region is to meet its target of cutting greenhouse gas emissions 55% by 2030, according to WindEurope, Europe’s largest wind energy association.

Earlier this year, BASF established a plan to cut its greenhouse gas emissions 25% by 2030. As part of the plan, the company has partnered with the energy firm RWE to build a 2 GW offshore wind farm to supply renewable energy to BASF’s site in Ludwigshafen, Germany. “Without the availability of sufficient volumes of electricity from renewable sources at competitive prices, our future transformation will not be possible,” BASF CEO Martin Brudermüller said in announcing the project. “This task is only achievable with innovative and intensive cooperation between politics and industry.”

Speaking to the Financial Times in his capacity as Cefic president, Brudermüller said both China and the US are taking a more pragmatic approach to renewable energy than Europe is. The region is “very slow and complicated,” with a number of national renewable energy strategies rather than a single plan, he said.

While European firms are banking on wind and solar as their main sources of zero-emission energy, that may not be the case elsewhere. Dow CEO Jim Fitterling told a Bern­stein investor conference earlier this month that nuclear energy could be a cheaper power source for making hydrogen. “To make green hydrogen work, we really need new investment in nuclear capacity,” he said.



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