Q&A: Markus Dielacher, CEO of BDI-BioEnergy International
Q: It's European Bioenergy Day today―are you satisfied with the current situation? What seems to work well, and where do we have to do some touching-up on?
A: Unfortunately, human influence on climate change and, consequently, global warming is still underrated. It's a fact that we can restrain temperature increase only when we take action around the world and when we all pull together.
I generally consider the Green Deal of the European Commission as a worthy cause. In my opinion, however, it's unrewarding to define more and more ambitious goals as long as the already set goals are not adhered to and not met. The Green Deal will remain as unsuccessful as any measure before if there will be no consequences for noncompliance.
Let's look at biofuel as an example: There is an EU standard liability regarding admixture for biofuels which has not been complied with by all countries. As long as there are no consequences in case of noncompliance, an increase of the rate is ineffective. Regarding the admixture of biofuels, the rate in Austria is currently at 7 percent. This rate could be elevated up to 20 percent―which already is the standard in countries like the U.S., and that is definitely achievable.
Another issue is, from my point of view, the fact that alternative approaches are in competition with each other. A good example are e-cars. It has frequently been understood that e-cars are not an ideal solution, mainly because of the unsolved question regarding sustainable battery recycling systems and safe disposal.
However, it's a fact that we need different technologies for the decarbonization of the transport sector as a short-term solution while further research is conducted and while even better technologies are developed. The bottom line is, the share of fossil fuels is honed down to the bare bones. In my opinion, too much time and energy are ploughed into valuation methods of various sustainable technologies instead of just allowing and using them―as we will need all alternatives available.
Q: Where do we have to clearly catch up on in Austria compared to other EU countries?
A: Traffic is unquestionably an area in which not enough action has been taken so far. In that sector, we currently only rely on the development of e-mobility, which will definitely not be sufficient. In that regard, we can learn from Sweden. In Sweden, a broad approach is followed, and different alternatives are promoted simultaneously, which is why our fellow campaigners are already headed in the right direction.
Also, the implementation of new ideas and technologies could be increased. To be internationally perceived as an innovation leader, capital must be put into national research infrastructure. And we must take another step regarding investments into new technologies as the completion of a demo or industrial plant mostly fails because of missing venture capital. Unfortunately, even the best forms of technology do not help us when they are not funded and successfully implemented.
Additionally, to showcase projects in the energy sector, the branches of e-mobility, biofuels, Smart Grid and Smart City, as well as research on hydrogen, must be expedited. For further development, distinct parameters must be created.
As mentioned before, we cannot rely on "that one particular innovative solution," but we must consider and pursue various approaches to reduce our ecological footprint.
Q: Which role does BDI-BioEnergy International play in all these processes? Which key technologies must currently be pushed and realized in the medium run?
A: As a technology provider, BDI is able to provide suitable technologies and develop new solutions together with different partners. In any case, we see the need for recycling of valuable materials to go easy on resources―particularly regarding the recycling of synthetic material as well as the development of biofuels, which can be used in air traffic and by the maritime sector. For that, however, we don't only rely on our own technologies. Thanks to our decades-long experience in research and development as well as in general plant construction, we know what matters regarding the development of new technologies. With the business area GreenTech Solutions, we cover all fields that don't involve biofuels. Hence, we pursue new approaches that are very important to us and support companies in getting their technologies ready for the market.
Q: Which of the three primal sectors, electricity, heat energy or traffic, seems currently mostly attractive? In which area does reality obviously lag behind the goals?
A: The sector of electricity is presently massively pushed.
For us as a company, traffic is much more fascinating―yet at the same time the field with the greatest need to catch up. Due to the seemingly dogmatic behavior of the Austrian government, e-mobility is almost exclusively promoted. E-mobility, however, is still in its infancy and doesn't play a major role yet. In any case, this area will not work well in the medium run without further alternatives.
Q: Can bioenergy, even in these challenging times (Covid-19), be a kind of beacon in the matter of energy revolution and green jobs, or boost the economic driving force?
A: It not only can be, but it even has to be a beacon―as we have already shown that it's possible. With our client Cargill, we have just closed a deal for the construction of a biodiesel plant in Belgium in which various forms of waste-based feedstock are processed. Hence, this question can definitely be answered "yes," as new jobs are created locally and BDI can sustainably grow further thanks to the high utilization.
But right now, the economy is dependent on state subsidies and, also right now, new investments can be steered in that direction. Covid-19 is indisputably the largest crisis Europe has experienced after World War II. At the same time, however, Covid-19 opens a chance for the state to step in and take the lead to avert the even larger climate crisis that is to be coming up soon if we don't act now.