The innovative capacity of the glass industry was highlighted once again by experts from the most diverse areas during the 2-day glasstec UPDATE International Conference. They explored in depth the ways the sector can contribute to a climate-neutral future along the entire value chain without losing its competitiveness.
“It was exciting to witness how in-depth and robustly industry and planners debated the potential of glass and the contribution it can make to a climate-neutral future at this Conference. There is huge potential for the ideas, visions and solutions that are being pursued, which can also be experienced live at glasstec 2022,” says Professor Ulrich Knaack of the Institute for Structural Design and Engineering at the Technical University of Darmstadt
Even today the glass industry no longer solely focuses on optimising energy efficiency. The sector is also working intensely on switching to alternative energy sources so as to reduce CO2 emissions. At present, three technologies are in focus here: full electrification with green power, the construction of hybrid glass melting furnaces that are fired with electricity and natural gas and/or hydrogen later on, as well as the use of renewable gases such as hydrogen or biogenic gases. However, there is still a tremendous need for research and development work to be done in order to scale up existing technologies to the required level.
“The journey to a CO2-neutral glass industry has already begun and is irreversible. Now we have to come up with short-term solutions to cut current CO2 emissions with such innovative products as lighter double and triple glazing units but also concrete savings in manufacturing by optimising existing lines. In the medium term, completely new technologies will have to be developed to ensure CO2-neutral glass production. We are already working hard on all three dimensions,” says Martin Stadler, Sales & Marketing Director, Saint-Gobain Glass Deutschland GmbH.
Experts agree: a holistic approach is needed to achieve long-term decarbonisation targets. For this purpose, they say, the glass industry needs political support to shape the transformation process in such a way that its competitiveness is maintained. “The glass industry faces up to the challenges of the future and does intensive research into the conversion of its processes,” says Dr. Johann Overath, Director General of the Federal Association of the German Glass Industry (Bundesverband Glasindustrie e.V.), “but it also depends on policy-makers to create the necessary infrastructure and framework for change. This includes, above all, low energy prices and subsidies, the so-called Carbon Contracts for Difference, with the aim of also staying competitive after the switch to renewable energy sources.” Add to this other relevant factors such as the recyclability and upcyclability of products as well as logistics issues that can also contribute to CO2 reduction.
Architects and planners also shared their visions on climate-neutral buildings, energy-efficient buildings and urban life of the future without losing focus on a healthy and liveable environment.
Stefan Kieckhöfel, Director General of the Federal Association of Glazier Trades and member of the programme advisory body, also sees a duty for the skilled trades: “Some 14% of all CO2 emissions in Germany are accounted for by the building sector. However, the emissions produced by power generation and distance heating or by building materials are not factored in here but allocated to the energy sector and the industry. Nevertheless, we consider it one of our most urgent tasks to intensely cooperate in the energy-efficient refurbishment of buildings by proactively approaching end users and building sponsors in a consulting capacity. There is still an enormous pent-up demand for energy-efficient refurbishment of existing window stock.”
The mega trends decarbonisation and CO2-neutrality will also be in focus at glasstec 2022, from 20 to 23 September. At the concurrently held “decarbXpo” (www.decarbXpo.de) technology and service providers will showcase solutions and services for decarbonising industry and commerce.