Last year’s climate-change accords ended without a binding resolution—yet the green revolution is moving forward as countries and companies look for ways to reduce energy costs and create jobs. One such firm: Siemens AG, the German engineering giant. Its chief executive, Peter Löscher, spoke with NEWSWEEK’s R. M. Schneiderman about the future of green technology. Excerpts:
What must happen to get climate change back at the top of the global agenda? Despite the lack of global agreements, the green revolution has already begun and there’s no turning back. We have already witnessed paradigm shifts in many major countries, and governments around the globe are, in fact, investing heavily in green products. Why is this happening? Because with producing energy in a very efficient way, you save a lot of money. So it primarily makes sense from a business perspective. Politicians only have to provide the right framework.
Who will be the main consumers of green technology in the future?
Green investments are becoming more and more important for cities, which are having to look for sustainable solutions. Although cities cover only 1 percent of our planet’s surface, they consume 75 percent of our available energy and emit around 80 percent of all harmful greenhouse gases. By 2050 roughly 70 percent of the world’s population will live in urban centers, and urban economic output and energy requirements will soar. Cities will, as a result, invest massively in modernizing and expanding their infrastructures and will depend increasingly on sustainable and ecofriendly solutions in order to reach their own climate goals and those of their respective country. Experts predict that cities worldwide will invest around €27 trillion in expanding their water, power, and transportation systems over the next 25 years.
What is the biggest misconception about clean energy right now?
That green energy is too expensive and merely a fanciful vision. But all the necessary technologies already do exist. If you build in favorable conditions, nowadays even onshore wind farms can be profitable at the same price that is paid for other energy sources. We’ve proven that in New Zealand. Investing in renewables is becoming more and more efficient.
Why are energy companies such as siemens looking to do business in africa?
Each of the North African countries is a perfect location for both offshore wind-power turbines and solar thermal power plants. [The region] is part of the earth’s Sun Belt, where the sun is so intense that solar power plants in just 0.3 percent of the Sahara could meet the world’s entire electricity demand. The first large-scale wind and solar projects in Africa will probably be announced later this year after various countries have created the political conditions required. For example, Morocco plans to invest $9 billion and Tunisia $2 billion in expanding renewable power generation.