Interview with Katherina Reiche, National Hydrogen Council president
After 17 years representing the Christian Democrats in the German Bundestag, Katherina Reiche took on a high-level job at the environment ministry in 2009. Four years later, she held the same position, albeit with the transportation ministry. Then it was time to move on. Between 2015 and 2019, she was lobbyist for and chief executive of the Association of Municipal Corporations – VKU. In January 2020, she became head of Westenergie and in summer 2020, she was elected chairwoman of the National Hydrogen Council. H2-international spoke with the Brandenburg native about her career and future goals.
H2-international: Ms. Reiche, during your years working for two ministries, you were occasionally involved in hydrogen projects. How does it feel to engage with hydrogen and fuel cell companies once again?
Reiche: My ministry days were some time ago, but as VKU chief executive there were multi-facetted opportunities to interact with the sector. I am delighted with the momentum in hydrogen development. It is now evident that hydrogen is much more than hype. It is the industrial policy approach that can propel the energy revolution forward, expanding from a purely electricity-driven change to a true energy system transformation while retaining supply chains in Germany and Europe. This technology will create durable change in our economy and in our lives.
In 2015, you consciously turned from politics. And went to work in the private sector, becoming VKU chief executive until 2019. What inspired this decision?
Active involvement with energy issues and the energy market transformation has accompanied me throughout my entire career. As a politician, I was able to co-author guidelines for implementing the transformation. At VKU, I was closer to the practicalities, discovering the impact political decisions have on businesses and how they must adjust to them. Now, at Westenergie, I have arrived at the heart of the energy revolution. This is an excellently positioned company with a sharply defined future intent – sustainable, distributed energy supply, and digital, too.
Can you tell us how the national hydrogen council came to be staffed? Did you apply for the position or were you nominated or invited?
The government’s decision to establish the NHC was a milestone for lending impetus to the energy market transformation. It is a great honor to have the government call me to the council and a further honor to be elected NHC president. This is an outstanding opportunity to boost hydrogen technology.
In 2006, in the Süddeutsche Zeitung newspaper, you stated renewable energies “are neither up to par with nor as economic as traditional energy sources.” Does this still hold true today?
… Read more in the latest H2-International e-Journal, Feb. 2021