Tomorrow’s world in the heart of Germany
Thomas Einsfelder of IMG describes why Saxony-Anhalt is perfectly positioned to lead the nation’s green revolution
When it comes to investment, sustainability and protecting the climate has now taken centre stage, with all parties looking for a clear path to carbon neutrality. In the German state of Saxony-Anhalt, we are turning to green hydrogen and the bioeconomy to foster a sustainable transformation of our regional economy. The days of experimentation are long gone, and technology in this area has advanced leaps and bounds over recent years. Many companies and scientific institutes are now fully active, with the focusing turning to how the value chain will pan out in the years ahead.
There is an old saying from the 1920s: “The head is round so our thinking can change direction”, and I believe this matters more today than ever. Indeed, a total rethink is necessary because the world is facing a profound challenge with climate change. The resolutions of the German Energy Transition and the European Green Deal are certainly a good starting point on the path to a sustainable future, but the decisive factor is how quickly measures can be implemented.
Joint strategy for the energy transition
Saxony-Anhalt is located in the heart of Germany and is well positioned for this transformation. It has all the prerequisites to develop a green economy. Relative to its population, the state has the highest density of hydrogen technology facilities and the industrial landscape is built on a history of extensive expertise and know-how. Science and research institutions exist in state-of-the-art clusters and the region’s companies are involved in national and international research projects. In particular the German chemical triangle in the south of Saxony-Anhalt has developed into a model region for green hydrogen, which is generated from renewable sources such as onshore wind power. This has already attracted global attention.
There are several exemplary hydrogen projects to mention: The Hypos network – comprising business and scientific organisations – is running a test facility for a pure hydrogen network in the Bitterfeld-Wolfen Chemical Park. In Bad Lauchstädt, a storage facility for hydrogen is being built at a depth of 700-900 metres, surrounded by a layer of salt. In August 2020, the Fraunhofer society began the construction of a test facility for green hydrogen researching the economic use of the energy carrier and several global players are supporting it. It is also noteworthy that the states of Brandenburg, Saxony and Saxony-Anhalt have adopted a joint hydrogen strategy and are striving to establish the region as a pioneer of the energy transition and modern mobility.
Such broad cooperation across national borders is unique. It is crucial for the countries to quickly develop a market for renewable hydrogen. Opportunities for an energy transition should be seized upon: structural changes are due with the phasing out of coal by 2038, and the market trend is pointing towards a green hydrogen economy. The aim of becoming a holistic, “hydrogen model region” is interconnected with the entire value chain. This includes research, mobility, industry, fuel cells, electrolysis, and heat supply.
The bigger picture
Sustainability also takes on other dimensions in Saxony-Anhalt. In addition to achieving climate policy goals, the state aims to continuously develop its regions, in particular, structural change after the coal phase-out in former mining areas requires careful support. An economic development agency therefore must orientate towards the companies located in these areas and focus on future-oriented and sustainable technologies. One focus, for example, is on ‘New Mobility’. This encompasses electromobility or alternative transport (intelligent networking, autonomous driving) across the state. Smart transport solutions for the movement of people and goods is an example of the direction in which the logistics and auto industry is now heading.
The bioeconomy is also an important component of the state’s sustainable strategy and has become an essential economic sector for Saxony-Anhalt. A unique density of non-university institutes, who research and work on the bioeconomy has taken root in areas where structural change is afoot.
The region generates renewable raw materials through agriculture and forestry, from which sustainable products are made in biorefineries in the nearby Central German Chemical Triangle. For example, the Finnish company UPM is building a biorefinery that will produce around 220,000 tons/a of biochemicals from wood for a wide range of applications, starting from the end of 2022.
Last but not least, the sustainability drive must consider the needs and concerns of the workforce, because recruiting skilled personnel has become a vital part of bringing these plans to fruition. Infrastructure, amenities, cost of living, these are all factors in attracting and retaining skilled workers. Exciting opportunities in future-oriented companies and a great place to live is important to the talent of tomorrow. Here too, Saxony-Anhalt, as the cradle of German culture, and home to a unique density of UNESCO World Heritage sites, has a lot to offer. Since the coronavirus pandemic fundamentally changed working environments, new lifestyles have emerged. A life outside the big metropolises is desirable for many, especially families as it offers a higher quality of life at lower costs. But whatever your preference, Saxony-Anhalt has it covered.
About the author
Thomas Einsfelder is the Managing Director of the Investment and Marketing Corporation Saxony-Anhalt mbH (IMG). IMG works on behalf of Saxony-Anhalt bringing global attention to the region’s business, scientific and tourism assets.
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