Over time, the energy industry gentlemen have learned to be funny and relaxed. Ulrich Hartmann, Eon’s first boss, was “stiff as a stick,” Hans-Willy Bein said on Monday night at a gas meter on the Euref campus, which was well filled with respectable older men in dark suits. Host Johannes Teyssen, who has been CEO for ten years and almost always wears a T-shirt unbuttoned, wore a tie as an exception. A significant birthday was celebrated and Sigmar Gabriel, a former prominent politician, came to congratulate him. However, the emphasis was on the annual book “Energy Change – How the Eon Group Appears Itself” over the past 20 years, largely written by journalist Bein on behalf of Eon.
100 billion euros transferred
There is a lot to talk about reversals and juggling billions. “The acquisition mostly went wrong,” Bein said, “but it was offset by a very good sale.” Breathless buying and selling – this characterizes the first few years. Eon was formed in 2000 by merging Veba and Viag. At the time, there were 190,000. As a result of the sale of the company, 150,000 employees left the group in five years and 43,000 joined.
75,000 employees remain
Today, after taking Innoga from RWE’s “main enemy” (Gabriel), Eon still employs 75,000 people – and no longer generates any energy. The huge general merchandise business has become a group with two manageable business areas: customer solutions and network infrastructure. According to its own information, Eon operates the largest electricity distribution network in Europe with a distance of 1.5 million kilometers, which is a “lifeline for the transition of green energy to the continent”. The history of the group over the last 20 years is also the history of German economic and energy policy. “Zigzag course” is a very benevolent description.
Disaster in Fukushima
Around 2005, Eon was Germany’s most valuable company with a market value of € 100 billion. The black and yellow federal government extended the operating hours of nuclear power plants in 2010, a year later the GAU took place in Fukushima, and the Merkel government decided to phase out nuclear energy by 2022. GAU for energy companies.
The Grohnde nuclear power plant in the Hameln-Pyrmont district (Lower Saxony) was majority owned by Eon. Photo: DPA
Teyssen and Gabriel recalled the liberalization of markets and the privatization of former state-owned enterprises. Teyssen spoke of “complete haste when it comes to learning about liberalization.” Regional monopolies have brought great profits to energy companies – without annoying competitors. “We had to learn the market economy,” Teyssen said, looking back. For the first two or three years in the competition, profits were shown only due to the release of reserves.
Billion profit with CO2 rights
Godsend, the head of Eon was also remarkably open at this point, was the introduction of trading in CO2 certificates. The energy industry has been granted pollution rights free of charge, but prices have increased anyway – with reference to new trading in certificates. As a result, Eon alone generated an additional profit of 2.5 billion euros, according to Teyssen. “From a business point of view, it was right, from a political point of view, it was wrong.” And in retrospect, it was even a “disaster” because the relationship with politics was heavily burdened.
Deploy nuclear power for too long
Gabriel again accuses Eon and RWE of relying on nuclear energy for too long. “Something has happened in society that you cannot stand for in the long run,” the former minister of the environment, economy and foreign affairs praised the anti-nuclear movement. As Minister of the Environment in Merkel’s first government (2005-2009), he sometimes marveled at letters from the energy industry coming from the Ministry of Economy, led by CSU politician Michael Glos, with the same spelling mistakes but different letterhead. “There has already been very intensive cooperation between the energy industry and the Ministry of Economy,” Gabriel recalls of the influence of corporations.
Energy transition carrier
Eon and RWE are also important players as international players for the success of the German energy transformation. “Others must see with us that climate protection and economic success go hand in hand,” said Gabriel, who reacted somewhat jealously to Teyssen’s remark that Veba and later Eon had only six CEOs in a decade. Unfortunately, it’s different at the SPD, Gabriel said. “Should I sign up there?” Teyssen asked. “It can only get better,” replied the former chairman of the SPD.