Leipzig’s energy and environment sector has a long history and now boasts well over 1000 companies – including start-ups – involved in energy, environmental and transport transition. The sector has grown from 1062 firms employing 9115 people in 2005, to 1358 with 12,345 employees in 2016.
One of the Leipzig’s home-grown successes is the European Energy Exchange (EEX), which has transformed from a local energy bourse into a leading regional exchange. It develops, operates and connects secure, liquid and transparent markets for energy and related products. It offers contracts for power, emission allowances and coal, as well as freight and agricultural products.
“We started out as an electricity exchange for the German market and evolved into a European energy exchange with a broad portfolio of products,” says EEX chief executive Peter Reitz.
The company’s exchange operations started in 2000 with the support of a number of local shareholders, including Sachsen Bank, the State of Saxony and the City of Leipzig. Its first office was located in Neumarkt in the city centre, with about 30 staff. Today, EEX Group employs more than 200 at its Leipzig offices, spread over six floors.
“We’re a growing company and feel very committed to Leipzig as our main location,” says Mr Reitz. “We want to continue this growth and position ourselves as a global commodity exchange. Today, we have more than 450 employees in 16 locations worldwide, with Leipzig as a strong base.”
He believes Leipzig attracts organisations such as EEX because of its status as an energy hub, with a growing number of companies from the energy and environment sector choosing to be based there. “Leipzig is a university city, which enables us to recruit potential junior staff. Looking at a supplier level, we’re also close to various service providers in and around Leipzig who support our business segments,” adds Mr Reitz.
An easy cell
The city has also captured the interest of international investors such as OC3 Solar. Based in Leipzig’s Zwenkau district, the company develops and manufactures products for renewable energy production and energy saving, including thin film solar cells, electrochromic films for intelligent windows, electrically controlled glass and thin film batteries, and it builds integrated solar modules under the Solarion brand.
“We were thinking of making an investment in the solar field in 2015,” says Ceyhun Derinboğaz, product development manager at OC3. “Initially we thought of starting a production unit at our base in Turkey, but there was an opportunity to acquire Solarion, and there was a lot of potential in Leipzig, so it made sense to invest in Leipzig rather than Turkey, because the know-how, assets, employees and everything else was already here.”
Mr Derinboğaz says OC3 took over the German company and 15 core employees in 2015. Since then, its workforce has grown to 33 permanent employees (four Turkish, 29 German) plus eight temporary staff.
He acknowledges there is stiff competition from China in the solar energy industry, but says OC3 can exploit a niche in the industrial customer market by producing technology that does not require metal frames and mounting parts to house solar modules on industrial roofing.
“People also ask why we don’t produce solar cells in China and import them,” he adds. “But there’s a minimum import tax for Chinese cells, and if you add this to the price, it’s about the same amount of money as buying from Germany – and people prefer to buy from Germany because of the higher quality of goods.”