In conversation with …Ulf C. Reichardt

NRW.Energy4Climate – this is the name of the new state-based organisation for energy and climate protection currently being set up by the state government of North Rhine-Westphalia. When it goes into operation in 2022, NRW.Energy4Climate will concentrate NRW’s climate protection activities under one umbrella. As Chairman of the Management Board, Ulf C. Reichardt has been in charge of the new organisation together with Samir Khayat since April. Prior to this role, Reichardt held managerial positions at Thyssenkrupp for many years and was the Managing Director of the Cologne Chamber of Commerce and Industry (IHK). In this interview, he offers insights into the latest developments.

What are the aims of the new state-based organisation, NRW.Energy4Climate?

Protecting the climate is one of the greatest challenges of our times. It’s a challenge that can’t be put off any longer – instead, we need to tackle it now through our concerted action. And that’s precisely the mission of NRW.Energy4Climate. We want to pool all our efforts and resources related to climate protection under one powerful umbrella and thereby accelerate the transformation of North Rhine-Westphalia so that we can achieve our goal of becoming climate-neutral as quickly as possible. After all, we don’t have much time left, as has notably been confirmed by Germany’s Federal Constitutional Court in its latest ruling.

 

The creation of NRW.Energy4Climate coincides with the phasing out of EnergieAgentur.NRW. This has prompted a great deal of criticism. What is your view on this?

EnergieAgentur.NRW has done very valuable and important work for NRW and beyond – there’s no doubt about that. Structurally, however, it has been operated by the private sector for all these years, meaning that its work and functions have been carried out by private companies through short-term project contracts on behalf of the state government. These contracts will come to an end, once and for all, at the end of 2021. The current establishment of a new structure in the form of a state-based organisation with no time limits presents us with the opportunity to consolidate this important work and to further expand its content. At the same time, we’ll have more flexibility to respond to changing circumstances at short notice. To support the development of the new organisation, contracts worth tens of millions of euros are also currently being put out for tender and awarded.

 

What progress has been made so far, and what issues do you plan to prioritise?

The new organisation will focus on all areas and sectors that are relevant in terms of achieving the climate targets, so energy, industry, mobility and buildings will be given particular attention. We’ll design the structure in line with these priorities. At the moment, our focus is on setting up the organisation in terms of content and personnel. We’re holding many interviews for the various positions with the aim of being able to hit the ground running from the beginning of 2022. The organisation will be headquartered in Düsseldorf – our initial location is in the Media Harbour district, with a move to the EUREF Campus near the airport planned in mid-2023. There will also be various additional locations, such as in the coalfields of the Rhineland. And IN4climate.NRW’s location in Gelsenkirchen will be retained, too.

 

What does the new organisation mean for the state-based initiative IN4climate.NRW?

IN4climate.NRW, headed by Samir Khayat, will be retained as a brand under the umbrella of the new state-based organisation. It will continue to focus on climate protection and the transformation of NRW’s industrial sector as well as bringing together experts from the worlds of science, business and politics in its role as a think tank and platform for collaboration. Of course, the direct integration of IN4climate.NRW into the new state-based organisation opens up the possibility of creating synergies through the exchange of ideas and internal networking between the topic areas and driving forward additional projects.

 

What is it about this subject that excites you personally?

My roots are in steel manufacturing, and I experienced a lot of change in the industry over the many years I was at Thyssenkrupp. The fact that NRW is Germany’s most important steel-making state presents us with an opportunity to achieve major leverage effects in terms of the climate footprint of our region by transforming this industry alone. Being able to work alongside a strong team in all the other relevant sectors to activate these sources of leverage is really motivating. And as a father of two children, I’m also very personally aware every day of the responsibility we bear towards future generations.