Gunther Kegel: achieving climate targets with innovation

Gunther Kegel is President of the German Electrical and Electronic Manufacturers’ Association (ZVEI) and Chairman of the Board of Pepperl+Fuchs.

“We need to use energy more efficiently,” says Gunther Kegel passionately. His goal: “To be able to generate more as an economy with less power consumed.” Kegel is not an environmental activist but represents the German electrical industry as president of the ZVEI association. Based on the number of employees, it is Germany’s second-largest industrial segment. Kegel himself holds a Ph.D. in electrical engineering. The catalyst for his career was a Christmas present: “When I was nine years old, my grandmother gifted me an electrical construction kit. It included experiments that fascinated me.”

After completing his studies, Kegel joined Pepperl+Fuchs in 1990, a company that manufactures electronics for factory and process automation. He now heads the global player as chairman of the board. He enjoys his honorary role as association president, says Kegel. In ZVEI, he says, you can tackle important social issues: renewable energy sources, electric motors, automation. Kegel sees all of this as an opportunity to trigger change through technology.

“The light bulb is a great example,” says the 61-year-old. At the EU level, his association lobbied for a faster transition away from light bulbs and toward energy-saving illuminants. From Kegel’s point of view, a dual success: “If you approach such challenges with innovations, you have the better product for customers, which is more energy-efficient at the same time.” Climate protection, not through abolishment, but through innovation and market economy, this mechanism is pioneering, he says. ZVEI’s motto is: “Energy efficiency through electrification and digitization.”

No electricity tax for renewables

He considers the EU’s Fit for 55 legislative package to be both trend-setting and worthy of criticism – in some respects, he says, it is not ambitious enough. For example, the Electronic Manufacturers’ Association is calling for energy sources to be taxed solely on their greenhouse gas emissions. Renewables would then no longer be subject to electricity tax.

Why? “It has to pay off to invest in climate-friendly technologies – for the company and the individual”. If the CO2 price is to have an effect, it needs to be significantly higher, at 100 to 150 euros per metric ton. “Then, for example, a single tank of gas would cost 20 euros more, and that would make an impact on the pocket.”

With such market-based incentives, he says, people could be persuaded to change their way of thinking. For all his ambitions for transformation, however, Kegel also stresses that planability and continuity are important to him. “Things should not happen too quickly.” Europeans must now roll up their sleeves and plan how to achieve the goals they have set. “Politically, this is nowhere near as spectacular as the bold announcement of a Green Deal.” But: the actual work, the implementation, still needs to be done “And fast.” Paul Meerkamp

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