"Green electricity is the biggest lever"

From 2022, Mercedes-Benz will only purchase CO2-free electricity for all of its own plants worldwide. An important basis for CO2-neutral production. Jascha Fischer has implemented the "Project Green Electricity" together with his colleagues. A conversation about regenerative energies, balance green electricity and the influence of student experiment kits.

Mr. Fischer, how do you explain the advantages of regenerative electricity to a first-grader?

Perhaps I would start by asking what a cell phone, an electric car and a Playstation have in common? They all need electricity to function. In the past, most electricity was generated from fossil fuels such as coal, oil or natural gas. However, the environment suffers in the process because combustion produces the greenhouse gas CO2, which contributes significantly to climate change and ensures that the earth heats up more and more. In addition, fossil raw materials are limited: If we continue as we are, they will eventually be used up. We don't have many of these problems with electricity generated from renewable sources such as the sun, wind and hydropower. They are available in almost unlimited quantities and do not produce harmful emissions.

You work in the International Energy Strategy department at Mercedes-Benz and prepared the green power supply contract with the energy supplier Enovos and the Norwegian energy producer Statkraft together with your team colleagues. Can you give an insight into the project?

The use of green power is the biggest lever for CO2-neutral production. In 2019, for example, more than half of production-related CO2 emissions were attributable to electricity purchases. With the new concept, we are reducing this share in our own plants to zero tons of CO2 worldwide by next year. To achieve this, we have worked with our colleagues on site to examine the options available to us for sourcing 100% green electricity at each plant. The options and regulatory frameworks differ from country to country. Some countries are already well on the way as far as green electricity is concerned - in others it was not so easy. But thanks to good cooperation, including with our suppliers, we ultimately succeeded in securing green electricity supplies for all of our own Mercedes-Benz plants.

What is special about the green power contract in Germany?

The simultaneity of time and the intelligent mix of sun, wind and hydropower! Simultaneity of time means that consumption is covered at all times with 100 percent green power from our portfolio mix of sun, wind and hydropower - in other words, truly around the clock. Many companies only green their procurement on an annual basis.

What does that mean?

Let's say, for example, that a company purchases 100 percent of its green power from solar power. It's clear that more electricity is generated during the day than is consumed. The surplus electricity is then used to "green" electricity consumption at night. But only purely in terms of the balance sheet. In this case, the annual renewable feed-in does coincide with the annual consumption. But in the end, we don't know from which power plants the electricity comes at night. With our concept, on the other hand, we can track exactly to the quarter of an hour from which renewable plant the electricity comes.

So at night it's not from the solar park, but rather from hydropower or wind?

Exactly. For our German sites, the CO₂-free electricity comes from solar, wind, and hydropower and is generated in various power plants mainly in Germany. These include hydropower plants on the Weser, Rhine, Neckar and Danube rivers, among others. It also includes part of a solar park the size of 60 soccer fields, as well as 24 wind farms with a total of more than 200 wind turbines.

Is green electricity sustainable per se? What do you have to consider?

We naturally make sure that the wind farms and solar parks from which we obtain our green power worldwide are located outside nature reserves and bird sanctuaries. In the case of hydropower plants, for example, it is important that fish ladders or similar installations enable fish migration. Another more important aspect is the issue of "additionality." This refers to the fact that green power purchases - directly or indirectly - create or maintain additional renewable generation capacity. If you only purchase electricity from old hydropower plants, the electricity is CO2-free - but the contribution to the energy transition is less than, for example, if you build a new solar park, which creates additional generation capacity. All these aspects have been taken into account in our global green power strategy.

Zero tons of CO2: Pascal Uehlin, Jascha Fischer and team leader Steffen Hartmann (from left) have worked together with the sites to supply the Mercedes-Benz plants with 100% green electricity.

How did you get involved in the topic or in your current job?

I think it started with my first Kosmos experiment kit with PV cells - that immediately sparked my interest in renewable energies. During my studies, I also dealt a lot with the technical and economic aspects of renewables. In the energy industry, I was able to gain my first practical experience in power plant scheduling and electricity trading. When Ambition 2039 was announced, I knew I wanted to be part of it.

What mix of electricity do you use in your private life?

Of course, 100% green electricity! In contrast to the electricity we buy for our plants, I can't say exactly which plants the electricity ultimately comes from.

What do you say to critics of wind and solar parks?

Many accusations are quickly invalidated on closer inspection. Just the other day, I read a commentary on the solar park from which we obtain electricity for our plants. It was criticized for the amount of land it consumed, which at 60 soccer fields was immense. Here it is important to know that a large part of the site is compensation land. This means that it cannot be used in any other way - neither for agriculture nor for building.

And what will you actually be dealing with if the company only purchases CO2-free electricity from 2022? Won't your task be fulfilled then?

Purchasing green electricity is just one of several building blocks in our holistic approach to CO2-neutral production. We always work according to the principle of "avoid, reduce, compensate" when it comes to the CO2 emissions of our plants. In addition to using green electricity, we therefore also rely, for example, on the strategic levers of "energy efficiency" and "sustainable heat supply" to further improve our carbon footprint. Only in the final step do we offset the unavoidable residual emissions. Especially in the area of "sustainable heat supply", I am currently supporting my colleagues in the implementation of further projects - so we won't get bored anytime soon.

Please complete

I am convinced of my work because... together with our suppliers, we have created a concept that is so far unique in Germany and should live up to Gottlieb Daimler's guiding principle "The best or nothing".

In my private life, sustainability means... CO2-free mobility with bicycle, electric scooter & E-Smart as well as conscious and reduced meat consumption.

Personally, I renew my energy... by cycling and cooking with friends.

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