The voestalpine Group’s first Energy Day was held on May 2 and 3, 2017. The venue for the event was the Communications Center Donawitz (CCD). More than 90 managers and external experts came to explore the subject of energy at the invitation of the voestalpine Group.
The networked approach taken to the subject of energy is becoming increasingly important at voestalpine. The key challenge lies in achieving the CO2 emission levels specified in global, European, and Austrian frameworks over the coming years. voestalpine is already regarded as the environmental and efficiency benchmark for its industry. During the past decade, the technology and capital goods group has invested over EUR 2 billion in environmental measures.
Management Board and experts focus on energy efficiency
To highlight the importance of energy and its efficient use within the company, the Management Board of voestalpine AG including Wolfgang Eder, Franz Kainersdorfer, Franz Rotter, Herbert Eibensteiner, and Peter Schwab, together with members of the Management Board of the Steel Division, Hubert Zajicek, and the Special Steel Division, Robert Bauer, as well as leading voestalpine employees working in energy met at the voestalpine site in Donawitz.
External experts were also invited to present their views and discuss issues related to
- Energy generation
- Energy distribution
- Energy use, and
- Energy efficiency
The event was organized by Hannes Lippert from voestalpine Stahl GmbH, together with Wolfgang Sparlinek and Martin Ebenhofer from voestalpine Rohstoffbeschaffungs GmbH. The aim of the event is to stimulate action, to learn from, and even directly emulate best practice examples, and to build up a network of experts over the long term.
Participants listened keenly to Walter Boltz, consultant and former Chairman of the Management Board of eControl, whose presentation focused on the European electricity and gas market, as well as on general developments in the energy sector.
He believes there is still a long way to go to reach the goal of a complete transition to renewables in Europe. Today the energy transition is chiefly an electricity transition. In Germany, for example, thanks to measures to stimulate solar power enacted in the period from 2000 to 2016, the volume of electricity generated by photovoltaics has grown to over 38,000 GWh. The transport and heating transition is only slowly growing in importance, also in Austria. He believes the mobility transition and the move to autonomous vehicles over the coming years is particularly interesting.
Energy supply is assured
In his presentation Michael Weixelbraun, Assistant to the Management Board of the Austrian Power Grid AG (APG), examined whether Austria’s power supply is secure and the estimated risk of a blackout. In general, it can be said that the dangers associated with cyber criminality have increased. But power supply is assured in the case of emergency. He offered various scenarios and current examples. Two internal sets of issues rounded off the two days: internal and external experts reported on and discussed the following topics in small groups:
- Energy generation and distribution,
- Energy efficiency, and
- Systems and environment.
The path to CO2-neutral steel production
The two Energy Days can be summarized as follows: with its steel, voestalpine is already making an indispensable contribution to the future. Using steel in applications such as lightweight construction or in the energy sector saves on average six times as much energy, and thus CO2, as is used in its production. Without steel there would be no wind turbines, no solar panels, no hydropower plants, no electric motors and consequently no electric vehicles, no electricity pylons, no environmentally friendly railways, metro systems or tramways, etc.
Even in the future it won’t be possible to produce steel without using energy. However, the voestalpine Group is consistently working to develop processes which will achieve a step-by-step decarbonization of steel production. Over the next two decades voestalpine will be using bridging technologies, primarily those based on natural gas as in the new direct reduction plant in Texas, in an effort to replace coal with alternative energy sources in steel production. The next step is to develop the direct reduction process using hydrogen in place of natural gas. Over the long term voestalpine is working towards using technologies such as the use of hydrogen in order to achieve CO2-free steel production.