Ettringen: Rising energy prices are also a concern for UPM
Created: 05/12/2022, 10:00 am
By: Melanie Springer-Restle
Plant Manager Wolfgang Ohnesorg (left) and Rainer Häring, Director Energy, (2nd from left) expressed their concern to Franz Josef Pschierer (3rd from left) with regard to the increased energy prices.
Ettringen's Mayor Robert Sturm (4th from left), his deputy Roland Wagner (5th from left), Paul Rossmeisl, Director Operations, (right) and Matthias Held, Director Public Affairs (not in the picture), were also there.
Ettringen – During the most recent visit by MdL Franz Josef Pschierer, plant manager Wolfgang Ohnesorg did not really live up to his last name, because he was definitely not without Sorg.
UPM has diversified in good time and the number of its numerous pillars is reminiscent of a centipede.
Nevertheless, rising energy prices, a lack of raw materials and a shortage of skilled workers are worrying UPM's decision-makers - especially for the Ettringen site.
Franz Josef Pschierer, who planned the visit on his own initiative because of concerns about rising energy prices, was also interested in what is depressing the Ettringer paper manufacturers.
“The paper industry is one of the energy-intensive sectors of the economy.
In particular, I wanted to find out more about the topics of 'energy prices, a shortage of skilled workers and securing raw materials', said the CSU politician.
As those present learned from a presentation by Wolfgang Ohnesorg, UPM was able to generate a total of EUR 9.8 billion in sales in 2021, 63 percent of which in Europe.
The company has 54 production facilities, employs 17,000 people in 46 countries and has 11,400 customers and 200 million end users worldwide.
Pschierer recalled all the milestones that the Ettringen-based company has reached: starting with speedy procedures for various building permits through parallel procedures through to the construction of the bypass road.
UPM has a well-developed infrastructure, which includes not only a railway network, but also its own pulp plantation in Uruguay with fast-growing wood.
According to Ohnesorg, a second plantation is under construction.
The plant manager introduced the former minister to the twelve business areas of UPM.
According to Ohnesorg, one area has grown strongly during the pandemic: UPM Raflatac, the manufacture of self-adhesive label materials.
This is due to the increased demand in the shipping area.
The numbers also skyrocketed in UPM Plywood, as the plywood sector is booming.
Plywood for the expansion of tanks is more in demand than ever, not only in classic construction, but also in LNG shipbuilding.
“We have a solid company structure.
If one sector weakens, another will support it,” summarizes Ohnesorg.
When the last machine was shut down, the management was not sure whether a one-machine location would be viable.
But the PM5 proved to be a driving force, not least because of its flexibility.
"Only a few plants can produce such a wide spectrum," says Ohnesorg.
From newspaper printing to high-quality magazines, the machine is an all-round wonder.
UPM is also feeling the effects of the decline in newspaper printing.
The pandemic in particular has exacerbated the development.
While a subscription system is common for newspapers in Germany, people in southern European countries buy their reading material at the kiosk, which was often not possible during the lockdown.
Lack of raw materials
The scarcity of recovered paper is giving UPM's decision makers a headache.
Many packaging companies buy the raw materials and are able to offer more competitive prices because the costs are passed directly to the consumer.
Many employees wanted to know why UPM itself hadn't jumped on the packaging bandwagon.
However, according to Ohnesorg, UPM has dedicated itself to the graphics sector.
In addition, the figures in the packaging industry are declining.
As a reaction to the shortage of waste paper, UPM now wants to rely more on base wood again.
problem child energy
While Germany is planning the energy transition, the Finnish parent company is clearly setting an electricity mix, including nuclear power.
Matthias Held, Director of Public Affairs, has clear words regarding the rising energy costs: "In Finland, people look closely at Germany and check its reliability as an industrial location."
Meanwhile, Häring and Pschierer are bothered by the double standards that some people in this country display: everyone is crying out for renewable energies, nobody wants to have the generation on their own doorstep.
“And then we rely on nuclear power from France.
That is dishonest,” Häring sums up.
A biomass power plant in Ettringen has already been considered.
But Häring recalled the time when UPM wanted to build a combined heat and power plant in Ettringen in 2009 and encountered massive resistance from the population.
"A lot of porcelain was smashed here," he summarized.
But what is the solution to rising energy prices?
In Schongau they have boilers for burning.
Electricity can be generated here for two out of three machines if the gas tap is turned off.
"But for Ettringen we need alternatives",
Franz Josef Pschierer has a clear stance on this: “If we want to preserve Bavaria as an industrial location, energy-intensive companies in particular need industrial electricity prices that are 'competitive' compared to other European locations.
Comparable industrial companies in France, for example, only pay around 60 percent of the German prices.”
The CSUer also says: "My appeal is aimed at the business associations and organizations, but to speak with one voice when it comes to politics on central issues." Occasionally, according to Pschierer, one can get the impression that individual associations are only speaking out to the Articulate politics because they are directly affected.
Basically, UPM's employees are satisfied and feel good, according to the management.
But it is difficult to find trainees or people who are willing to work in shifts.
“In people's minds, production is something bad.
Society has become so addicted to titles,” Pschierer notes.
Häring agrees: "Today, the trainee asks his company: 'What can you offer me?'" says Häring, referring to the work-life balance that young people nowadays demand for themselves.
"If someone has a quieter job somewhere else and a little more money, they're gone," says Wolfgang Ohnesorg.
Unlike in the past, Häring now sees himself more as a mentor for the young employees.
Bavaria's former economics minister sharply criticized the sluggish expansion of the power grid.
Expand transmission networks
"Anyone who pushes the expansion of renewables, which we all want, must also ensure that the transmission grids are expanded at the same time," says Pschierer.
Specifically, Pschierer criticized the coalition partner Free Voters.
"It makes no sense to take wind turbines off the grid in northern Germany because there is no transmission capacity to the south, and at the same time to save the Allgäu with 200 meter high wind turbines.
Economics Minister Aiwanger is clearly setting the wrong priorities here.” Politicians are also called upon to improve the legal framework so that power generation in industrial companies becomes even more interesting.
When asked by our editors what homework Pschierer would take home with him after the visit, he said: "In particular, the task of working with the Federal Network Agency to improve the framework conditions for self-generation of electricity.
In addition, I will work with the CSU parliamentary group to ensure that the large transmission lines from the north to the south are completed as quickly as possible.
So far, it is planned to put these lines into operation by 2028.
That has to go faster.”