Interview with industry expert Prof. Dr.-Ing. Heinz Jörg Fuhrmann

"Not all of the potential that can be leveraged in the short term has been exhausted"

The ongoing energy crisis poses major challenges for the global economy. Energy-intensive sectors such as the metal industry and mechanical engineering are particularly affected. What does this mean for the green transformation? What consequences must companies expect? And which measures are worth taking in order to make a leap forward in terms of sustainability? Prof. Dr.-Ing. Heinz Jörg Fuhrmann, industry expert and long-standing CEO of the steel company Salzgitter, answers these and further questions in our interview.

Mr. Fuhrmann, in your view, what opportunities does the energy crisis resulting from the Russia-Ukraine war offer for the green transformation?

FUHRMANN The only chance this offers is that the transformation will proceed more quickly in certain regions such as the EU, because the structural energy shortage in these regions, which is likely to persist in the medium term, will make it necessary to act more quickly. From a purely environmental perspective, this may be positive, but from the point of view of taxpayers and the economy, hasty action under massive pressure is clearly harmful. 

Gas is likely to remain in short supply and expensive for the foreseeable future. What does this mean for energy-intensive sectors such as the metal industry and mechanical engineering?

FUHRMANN Nothing good. The prerequisite for a planned transformation of all energy-intensive industries in the EU – and especially in Germany, where we are conducting a globally unique experiment with the almost simultaneous phase-out of nuclear power, lignite, and hard coal – was the availability of sufficient volumes of natural gas at competitive prices on a global scale. This prerequisite no longer exists. Liquefied natural gas (LNG) will not come close to filling this role. It is more expensive than pipeline gas in terms of conversion and transportation costs. In addition, it is less reliable – ships can change course and sail toward higher prices, as experienced in 2022 – and its price volatility is disproportionately higher.