Volker Raffel, CEO E.ON Romania: “We want to play an essential part in the green transition, with a focus on efficient energy use”
E.ON Romania has launched its 2021 Sustainability Report (https://tinyurl.com/53d76yy5), a non-financial report reflecting the sustainability performances attained through its economic, environmental and social achievements, as well as its sustainable objectives and commitments relevant to the company’s business area.
In an interview given to The Diplomat, Volker Raffel, CEO of E.ON Romania, describes the three sustainability pillars of the group, the impact and role of E.ON’s activity in the Romanian economy; he explains the reason why investments are of paramount importance to both the green transition and to solve the energy crisis, but also why caring about the environment and people is essential in the current context.
We are experiencing a period marked by significant changes in the energy market, in which the gradual shift to renewables is becoming mandatory. What is E.ON’s role in this context?
The current energy crisis shows it clearly that Europe must transform its energy system. It should no longer depend on Russian gas in order to have a secure supply, to deliver as much clean energy as possible and at affordable prices.
The shift from conventional energy sources to more renewables is an objective each European country has committed to. Connecting more renewables to our crisis is also needed in the energy crisis even more, as our energy efficient customer solutions. Therefore, we have to realise that our business strategy is even more confirmed than ever before. In this context, E.ON has set out to play an essential part in the transition to green energy, with a focus on efficient energy use. We are aware of the huge responsibility towards society and therefore, in all our actions we stand by the people, companies and cities in this energy transition process. Because we understand the need for a deep change for our business, we have developed a strategy and energy solutions to help us get where we want.
Having expected this major change in the energy system, apart from the energy solutions we proposed to our clients, we initiated some years ago a wide modernization process of the electricity distribution in order to be able to take over the energy coming from less harnessed renewable sources and from prosumers.
What are the pillars E.ON Group’s strategy relies on?
To achieve the objective of being leaders in the energy transition, in November 2021 we updated our strategy and set three priorities to focus on in the next years: sustainability, digitalization and growth. Sustainability is more than an opportunity; it is our business. We set out to be climate neutral by 2040, while our supply chain should be neutral by 2050.
Sustainability is, firstly, saving resources, and in the context of the energy crisis, this principle supports an efficient resource and energy consumption. Energy efficiency, green energy investments and energy transition are measures we must commit to. We are aware that substantial measures and investments are needed to lead to energy independence, but also to a more intensive use of renewables. Of course, all such measures must be doubled by a behaviour change in each of us. That’s why we have taken very seriously our role of informing our customers on the efficient use of energy resources since any gesture, however small, may get considerable results over time. Energy efficiency must become a part of our lifestyle.
There has been an ever growing conversation about transforming the energy sector into a sustainable. How does E.ON act towards that end?
Energy grids have a key role in this transformation and that’s precisely why investments are paramount. In 2021 only, we invested lei 644 million, a 24% increase on the previous year and almost double compared to the investments we made in 2019. Our investments focused on putting up new grids, but also on modernizing those already in place, and on investing also in automating our processes and digitalizing our solutions. It was last year also that E.ON supplied 9% of the electricity consumed and 19 % of the total natural gas supplied domestically. We didn’t stop at supplying energy, but went on to developing new energy solutions and we also engaged in educating our customers on the efficient use of energy sources.
Another component we developed is the increase of the digitalization level of our services. Our customers’ interest in our solutions has been growing, and they have become aware that the investments they make are fully recouped by the savings on their bills. I’m talking about the energy production solutions by photovoltaic panels, the heating solutions for families and small enterprises to whom we make it easier to purchase new, more efficient boilers, that cut natural gas consumption by up to 30%. We also offer heating solutions to residential customers with air water heat pumps, that can be fivefold more efficient than a gas boiler and that are sustainable in the medium and long term.
On the non-residential segment, we have been witnessing ever more companies in Romania, as well as across Europe, choosing sustainable business models and seeking to cut their energy costs; and we are here to provide them energy solutions tailored to their specific needs.
For instance, more than 100 small and medium enterprises have cut their bills by up to 30%, choosing to get the energy needed for their activity with the help of the photovoltaic solutions provided by E.ON. Also, we have put up highly performing public lighting systems, and the savings thus made went up to 60% of the energy consumption for public lighting compared to the older systems.
Apart from the energy distribution and supplying core business and energy solutions, how is E.ON supporting the Romanian economy?
In 2021, our companies in Romania played an important part in supporting the local economy. We collaborated with over 900 direct suppliers, respectively with approximately 2.300 product and service suppliers all along the supply chain, the value of the payments thus made amounting to approximately lei 1 billion. The amount does not include the value of the electricity and gas purchased for the about 3,4 million customers in Romania.
E.ON was, last year too, one of the large contributors to Romania’s state budget, with an aggregate value of the amounts transferred of over lei 1 billion in taxes and fees, with a 24% increase in the contributions compared to 2020. In its 16 years of presence in Romania, E.ON’s contribution to the state budget has gone beyond lei 11,8 billion.
What part does care for people play in the E.ON Romania Group?
Care and responsibility for people, and I’m talking here about customers, employees, collaborators and community in general, play an essential part. For employees. It means to be a benchmark in the work conditions and benefits one provides, while for the customers it means to respect their time and to provide them with quality services, but also solutions tailored to their needs and which can help them cope with the difficult situation we are living. For our collaborators it means a permanent dialogue so as to identify the best solutions, while for the community our care means to do good and to engage in projects making a contribution to the sustainable development of the communities so that we can provide the chance to a better future to the next generations. We believe E.ON has succeeded to do all these things and to be a model of best practices in Romania.