Energy and climate protection

North Rhine-Westphalia wishes to be climate-neutral by 2045. This is laid down in the Climate Protection Act of this most populous and most industrialised of Germany’s sixteen states. The transformation of the energy system is an important lever for achieving these ambitious targets: The share of coal-fired electricity production must be rapidly reduced whilst the share of renewable energy and the use of hydrogen have to be increased just as quickly.

With that in mind, we want to improve infrastructure, put supply on a secure footing, ease households’ electricity burden, keep the private sector competitive and turn the heat transition into a success story. We are pushing towards climate-neutrality also in industry, the trades, SME and local government. Through a variety of strategies and action programmes, the Government of North Rhine-Westphalia is setting course to speed up climate protection and energy transition even more.

North Rhine-Westphalia is a strong and innovative state with an outstanding industrial and research landscape. Whilst climate protection and the energy transition are huge challenges, these entail significant opportunities, too. That is why North Rhine-Westphalia has set itself the ambitious goal of transforming the state into Europe’s most modern and climate-friendly centre of industry. To achieve these goals, the state government has formulated solid targets, such as a climate-friendly and affordable energy supply, the ramp-up of a hydrogen economy or the expansion of renewable energy sources.

North Rhine-Westphalia steps up the pace of energy transition

As Europe's most important energy region, North Rhine-Westphalia is taking its big responsibility for energy transition extremely seriously: for example, North Rhine-Westphalia is at the leading edge when it comes to the coal phase-out, and will account for over 70 per cent of nationwide brown coal capacity reductions by 2029. In terms of onshore wind energy expansion, North Rhine-Westphalia is national leader in 2020, despite unfavourable site conditions and a large population density.

In order to achieve the climate protection goals, the state government is working to further accelerate the restructuring of the energy system and the expansion of renewable energies. In the update of the ‘NRW Energy Supply Strategy’, the state government therefore significantly increased its targets at the end of 2021: The expansion of photovoltaics is to be at least tripled and ideally quadrupled, from around six gigawatts in 2020 to 18 to 24 gigawatts in 2030.  When it comes to wind energy, we want to double the installed capacity to 12 GW by 2030.  Also, in view of the expansion of power plants, sector coupling and electric transport, it will be necessary to convert and expand the electricity grids. An important priority is the continued high level of supply security. Energy must also remain affordable. We are keen for renewable and conventional energy sources to interact smoothly in a climate-neutral, cost-effective and efficient manner. That way, we will be able to remain a competitive and innovative centre of business and industry, going forward.

Updating the Energy Supply Strategy for North Rhine-Westpfalia - English Summary (December 2021)

Through the consistent use of green hydrogen, North Rhine-Westphalia can save about a quarter of today's greenhouse gas emissions. In industry in particular, large quantities of hydrogen will therefore be needed in the future, both as an energy carrier for high-temperature processes and as a raw material, e.g. for the steel and chemical industries.  Other sectors, such as transport or the energy and heating sector, are also increasingly relying on hydrogen-based applications. Such innovative solutions reduce greenhouse gas emissions and at the same time offer immense economic potential. According to a study commissioned by the Ministry of Economic Affairs, the development of a hydrogen economy can create up to 130,000 new jobs and added value in North Rhine-Westphalia.

Synthetic fuels also offer further potential for climate protection and value creation. Where renewables are used to produce them, they can make an important contribution to climate neutrality, for example as a feedstock material in the chemical industry, in long-distance air traffic or in maritime transport. Quick rapid ramp-up is necessary to meet the steadily increasing demand in North Rhine-Westphalia. The action plan published towards the end of 2021 by the Ministry of Economic Affairs identifies ways to achieve this.

Essential basic products of a modern industrial society, such as steel, aluminium, cement or plastics, either consist of carbon, or carbon is used to produce them. To avoid the release of extra CO2, going forward, the North Rhine-Westphalian Government has included in its Carbon Management Strategy the ambitious goal of reducing the use of fossil carbon sources as much as possible or to replace them in a climate-friendly way and to keep existing carbon volumes in the cycle.

Next to the energy and industry sector, the transport and building industries are the other major CO2 emitters. So, with regard to transport, North Rhine-Westphalia has since 2017 been supporting the switch to more climate-friendly propulsion systems such as electric- and hydrogen-based vehicles. Examples include heavy goods vehicles, maritime transport and inland navigation. When it comes to electric vehicles, the state has managed to boost the sector through wide-ranging funding schemes. The Government of North Rhine-Westphalia has identified urban energy solutions as another important field of action. Specifically, the state supports demonstration projects such as ‘100 Climate Protection Settlements’ and the ‘climate neighbourhoods’ and provides funding as well as planning tools for the modernisation of electricity and heating infrastructure.

Climate protection and the energy transition are shared responsibilities. Only if we all work together we will be able to achieve North Rhine-Westphalia's ambitious climate targets. The state government provides a wide range of support services to stakeholders - to local authorities, the private sector and the community. The government aims to speed up implementation and boost investment in climate protection and energy transition technologies. With a view to concentrating these activities, the Government of North Rhine-Westphalia, in 2021, set up ‘NRW.Energy4Climate’, a state enterprise which keeps growing. Since the beginning of 2022 the organisation has been promoting projects in the areas of energy management, industry and production, buildings and heat, as well as transport.