Electrification is a basic requirement

Interview with
Wolfgang Weber, presidente del consiglio di amministrazione della ZVEI

tec.news: What do you mean when you refer to the “All Electric Society”?

W. Weber: The “All Electric Society” is a vision for a society in which the energy supply is predominantly based on renewable electrical energy sources. In other words, the “All Electric Society” is the definitive energy efficiency scenario of a climate-neutral society.


A climate-neutral world can only succeed if we have appropriate and increasing levels of electrification, as this energy supply allows us to dispense with combustion processes. Thermodynamically speaking, combustion processes are a major efficiency problem when they are used to generate electrical or mechanical energy or work. This can be clearly illustrated using the example of driving a car. Only a third of the energy used by a combustion engine is converted into movement, the rest is simply “wasted”, being discharged in the form of waste heat. Things look different when it comes to fully electric driving, where four fifths of the energy used is utilised for movement.


tec.news: When we talk about the “All Electric Society”, which areas does it actually include?

W. Weber: On the one hand, it encompasses the entire energy supply and – through sector coupling – all the elements and components that ensure that sectors such as buildings, mobility and industry can communicate with one another. On the other hand, it is also important to provide data for this sector coupling. And we need connectors and cable systems for this.


tec.news: What does the “All Electric Society” mean for sustainability?

W. Weber: If we want to achieve climate neutrality, we need a low-CO 2 energy supply. We need to achieve significant efficiency gains to meet the energy needs of society, which is why electrification is a basic requirement. The circular economy also plays a key role with respect to sustainability. When it comes to material cycles, we strive to ensure that manufactured products can be returned to the cycle. This also means that if we want to become a true circular society, data must be passed along the value chain for all products. In turn, this data needs to provide information about which materials were used and in which processes. Sustainability is thus more than just the right energy production – sector coupling, digitalisation, data and the sharing of information along the value chain are also part and parcel of sustainability.


tec.news: What kind of consequences does the “All Electric Society” have for the future?

W. Weber: There must be a fundamental willingness on the part of society to embrace this transformation process. Of course, there are many outstanding issues that need to be resolved: To what extent can this transformation be financed? How can a regulatory framework help to make this investment worthwhile for private or corporate investors? Ultimately, there needs to be a social consensus to chart this course. Likewise, we need a common understanding on data sharing: What kind of value to do we place on which type of data?

tec.news: Which new technologies are required for an “All Electric Society”?

W. Weber: Generally speaking, we would have to examine each individual process and each individual industry that uses fossil energy today. Beginning with the chemical industry, where we need modern and efficient electrolysis processes, through to electric furnaces for melting processes in the glass industry. In the steel industry, for example, we need to promote direct reduction using hydrogen instead of coal. In principle, every energy requirement can be electrified. We have also launched an initiative for direct current in order to fully exploit the potential for even greater efficiency gains. In doing so, we want to intensify our focus on the issue of recuperation – i.e. the recovery of energy. Recuperation is already well established in the electric car industry, but we would like to see the technology extended to areas such as robotic processes, elevators and other applications using electric motors. Needless to say, to achieve all of this, we also need to have the appropriate infrastructure in place. And digitalisation is the common thread running throughout.

tec.news: How much will the demand for electricity increase if we electrify society?

W. Weber: Germany currently has an electricity requirement of approx. 550 terawatt hours and a primary energy requirement of 3,500 terawatt hours in total. If we add a certain amount of additional energy consumption – our individual energy needs will ultimately increase to cater for increased mobility, etc. – our requirements will soon stand at 4,500 terawatt hours. Various studies have shown that we can reduce society's energy needs to 1,200 terawatt hours by implementing extensive electrification measures. However, this also means a two- to two-and-a-half-fold increase in electricity requirements. This, in turn, has further repercussions in that society will have to support the expansion of renewables together with the necessary infrastructure. Similarly, it will fall to politicians to set the right framework. For example, network operators are facing huge investment in this area; these investments must be worth their while and not result in increasing network fees and thereby ever higher electricity prices.


tec.news: What are the next steps in digitalisation?

W. Weber: It is essential here that the digital twin and the so-called “administration shell” become the standard. We need this for data transfer, e.g. along the energy value chain. If we want to talk about sector coupling, we need the semantics to match where possible. What we need to do now is provide the infrastructure and standard formats to facilitate a data exchange that is as simple, inexpensive and scalable as possible. We are working on this in projects such as Manufacturing-X. But the exciting question is: Under which conditions will each partner be willing to share their data? I believe that this is the supreme discipline.

tec.news: How do we accelerate this urgently needed exchange of data and information –
a step that is essential for the functioning of the “All Electric Society” and sector coupling?

W. Weber: Once we start collecting data and we have the first business models with apps based on this industrial data, then companies will also be able to develop fair allocations of benefits. The most successful transformation processes in society over the past 200 years can be traced back to industry. I believe that industry is still more than capable of providing the faster solutions, even if this takes place via a moderated process at political level. I am quite optimistic here! Meanwhile, we need to roll up our sleeves and get to work to provide the necessary data infrastructure and the appropriate data standards. Once this is done, we will quickly see the first collaborative efforts to secure an intensified data exchange, and this will be beneficial for all partners involved.

tec.news: What economic significance does the “All Electric Society” have for Germany and

It is indisputably important. However, to avoid any misunderstandings: we are still part of an open society. This is why imported green hydrogen also plays a crucial role for us in the “All Electric Society”. The same can be said for other raw materials. In general, we are not apodictic when it comes to “all”. Every percentage point gained in electrification brings us closer to our climate and efficiency targets. And we certainly do not stand for demarcation or autarky. Nevertheless, we intend to take full advantage of the huge economic opportunities that come with electrification and digitalisation for our country and Europe. We are fully aware that the transformation process ahead of us will involve a great deal of work and effort – technologically, politically and not least, socially. But if we approach it smartly, it will pay off: economically and socially. Not to mention the benefits this will create for the climate.