North Rhine-Westphalia: Powering the energy transition

Germany is aiming for 40–45% of its energy to come from regenerative sources by 2025 and 80% by 2050. North Rhine-Westphalia (NRW), as the country’s most populous and densely populated state as well as its largest consumer and producer of energy, is key to this process. Long home to traditional branches of industry such as steel and textiles, and also an important mining region, NRW is now transitioning to clean energy sources like wind, solar, and hydrogen power.

From wind turbines to hydrogen fuel cells

Wind energy is currently at the forefront of renewable energies, accounting for around one quarter of Germany’s power generation from renewable energies and almost 50% in North Rhine-Westphalia. It produces no air or water pollution and, since the wind is free, has very low operational costs once turbines are erected. Five of the world’s leading suppliers of wind turbine gearboxes are based in NRW, as well as Statkraft, Europe’s largest generator of renewable energy.

NRW is also investing heavily in photovoltaics and solar energy, the benefits of which can be felt even on a very local level – producing one’s own solar energy is now in some cases cheaper than purchasing power from the grid.

Hydrogen is also key to achieving climate targets and modernising North Rhine-Westphalia’s energy landscape. Though the sector has plenty of room for growth – it currently accounts for around 4% of power generation from renewable energies in Germany and 2.4% in NRW – it is attracting major investment, including from abroad. A key area of application is in e-mobility, with hydrogen-powered fuel cells helping to steer mobility away from fossil fuels.

Research and regeneration

The energy transition depends on ground-breaking technologies. North Rhine-Westphalia’s exceptional science and research landscape – the densest in Europe – creates ideal conditions for technology transfer, particularly in the energy sector. Research is taking place across university and non-university institutes, numerous companies, and in real-world labs.

Another important focus is regeneration, making sure that regions like the Rhineland, severely affected by the phasing out of coal, are not left in the past. For example, the RWE “StoretoPower” and TransUrbanNRW (E.ON Energy Solutions) projects are stimulating necessary growth in the Rhenish mining region.

Environmental and human benefits

North Rhine-Westphalia is making impressive progress in the transition to green energy. The state achieved its 2020 climate targets as early as 2017, and plans to double its wind and photovoltaic energy production by 2030 to meet the Paris Climate Targets. Citizens, too, enjoy the benefits, such as cleaner air and more energy-efficient living space, with almost every second new residential building in the state powered primarily by green energy – a record in Germany. In the field of renewable energies, around 46,000 employees already work in more than 4,700 companies. With long-term commitment and ongoing investment from the public and private sector, the green energy transition promises to be a win-win scenario for both the environment and the citizens of Germany’s most populous state.