North Rhine-Westphalia wants to become climate-neutral by 2045 at the latest. Germany’s most populous federal state faces enormous challenges in achieving this goal. As an industrial region, transitioning to climate neutrality will require a special effort. In order to tackle this challenge and with the future in mind, the federal state of North Rhine-Westfalia has put the support it provides for the implementation of climate protection and energy transition measures on a new footing by founding NRW.Energy4Climate. The new state agency commenced operations in 2022. 

Easy Engineering: What are the main areas of activity of the company?

NRW.Energy4Climate: The state agency NRW.Energy4Climate brings together expertise and resources mainly in four sectors: energy, industry, heating and buildings, and mobility. As these represent NRW’s biggest sources of emissions, being collectively responsible for more than 90 per cent of its greenhouse gases, the transformation process will therefore be accelerated across all sectors. 

But there are also cross-cutting issues: In order to provide municipalities with the best possible support in climate protection, the state agency is represented in the area of municipal climate protection in nine regional offices with ‘NRW Climate Networkers’ throughout the state. In the area of climate-neutral state administration, the approximately 540 authorities and other institutions with their 150.000 employees are supported in becoming climate-neutral by 2030. In the area of climate education, the state agency supports schools and daycare centers in imparting climate knowledge. And the unit ‘International Cooperations’ promotes international partnerships and business relationships.

The state agency thus serves a comprehensive portfolio in the fields of energy and climate protection. In all areas, the following applies: The technical experts do not limit themselves to individual, isolated measures, but always have the big picture in mind. This cross-sectoral approach enables NRW.Energy4Climate to accelerate the transformation to such an extent that North Rhine-Westphalia achieves the goal of climate neutrality as quickly as possible. 

E.E: What’s the news about new products? What are the aims und tasks of your organization? 

NRW.Energy4Climate: NRW.Energy4Climate defines four overarching goals in its activities. First, the company wants to identify necessary innovations and frameworks: Together with stakeholders from the world of business, politics, science and society, and in cooperation with the state government, NRW.Energy4Climate identifies system-relevant weaknesses and areas requiring action. This information is being used to draw up and support appropriate measures. This can be the identification of inhibiting factors in the expansion of renewable energies, the creation of necessary framework conditions for the climate-neutral conversion of industry, or the turning of important levers to advance the heat transition. 

Secondly, NRW.Energy4Climate wants to determine investment and funding needs. This is important, because the transformation towards climate neutrality means drastically increasing investment needs for all sectors. The state agency thus helps companies get the funding they need. Through its close ties with the state government, NRW.Energy4Climate can also present requests for future funding programmes to the German federal government and the European Union and help to design them in the interests of North Rhine-Westphalia. 

Third, the state agency wants to connect relevant stakeholders and initiate projects: As a point of contact, NRW.Energy4Climate is involved when it comes to advancing climate protection initiatives and launching pilot projects that have the potential to be scaled up and offer leveraging effects to reduce emissions – whether in the energy, industrial, building and heating, or mobility sector or at company or municipal level. For example, NRW.Energy4Climate just launched the ‘Industriepakt’ (industry pact): The manufacturing industry in NRW, associations, technology providers as well as science and politics have joined forces to work together on the goal of a climate-neutral industrial location in NRW.  The pact is executed and implemented by the state agency.  

Fourth and last, NRW.Energy4Climate supports action at community level: The state agency has a presence on the ground in the regions via the regional concept. The NRW Climate Networkers are rooted in the respective region, provide information on funding programs, impart know-how and help municipalities and companies to get local climate protection projects off the ground. The NRW Climate Networkers are conceptually supported by the municipal climate protection team from the Dusseldorf headquarters. In this way, NRW.Energy4Climate brings climate protection to a wider audience. 

E.E: What are the ranges of products?

NRW.Energy4Climate: NRW.Energy4Climate’s offers range from support services for companies to workshops, the provision of online tools, specific advice and the presentation of best practice projects. 

For example, the state agency is currently working in the context of the thinktank ‘IN4climate.NRW’ (which is a crucial part of the agency) with more than forty companies and scientific institutions on the specific requirements that industry must meet in order to become climate neutral. In another campaign on photovoltaics, NRW.Energy4Climate advises companies on how to profit from solar systems on the rooftops of their buildings. Furthermore, the agency offers advice to city administrations and local authorities on how to encourage citizen energy, or help communities to inform their citizens on how to save energy. NRW.Energy4Climate also offers local governments and companies free online tools to – for example – precisely track their energy use or to find the best funding program.  

Not necessarily a product, but an important area of activity, is the expansion of international partnerships, alliances and delegation trips. Within this framework, NRW.Energy4Climate promotes the exchange of best practices and know-how on energy and climate protection issues. In addition, players in the North Rhine-Westphalian energy industry, in particular start-ups and small and medium-sized companies, are supported in establishing themselves on international markets. Learning from each other and benefiting together is therefore the motto of international cooperation from Belgium to Japan, from South America to Scandinavia. To name an example: Denmark has been using district heating in an exemplary way for years, and that protects the climate. This year, together with the Ministry of Economic Affairs, NRW.Energy4Climate organised a study tour with selected district heating operators (‘Stadtwerke’) to speed up the learning process through peer-to-peer learning at the technical level. The delegations presented their expertise, experiences and success stories and explored opportunities for collaboration. 

E.E: What can you tell us about market trends?

NRW.Energy4Climate: NRW.Energy4Climate’s aim is to substantially reduce greenhouse gas emissions while at the same time strengthening North Rhine-Westphalia’s future position as a location for industry and services. This requires a comprehensive transformation of all sectors. Not only must the pace of expansion of renewable energies be increased many times over. In order to make the most of the fluctuating availability of wind and solar energy, the existing energy system will have to be fully restructured at the same time. Significant improvements in energy efficiency are needed too, and a sustainable circular economy must be established. 

Innovations and new technologies are vital if the energy transition is to succeed and climate neutrality is to be achieved. Many production processes will need to be redesigned, infrastructure rebuilt and legal frameworks adapted. For all sectors, this means a drastic increase in the investment required to realise the necessary transformation processes, which must be supported and facilitated by regulatory conditions. Given the enormity of the requirements to be met over the next few years and beyond, decisive and practical action is now more important than ever before. NRW.Energy4Climate has started at the beginning of 2022 to tackle these challenges and massively promote the climate-neutral conversion of the state of North Rhine-Westphalia. 

E.E: What estimations do you have for the rest of 2022 2023?

NRW.Energy4Climate: Protecting the climate is the most urgent task of today’s time. And the challenges of climate-neutral transformation are enormous. In order to overcome this challenge of the century, everyone’s action and support are essential. This makes institutions such as NRW.Energy4Climate, which are designed to operate on a permanent basis and bring together all stakeholders in a spirit of partnership, even more important. If the consequences of climate change are to remain manageable tomorrow, action must be taken today. NRW.Energy4Climate is an enabler that brings together the region’s climate protection and the energy transition activities in order to support and accelerate the transformation across all sectors. 2022 was the year the state agency was set up. The following years will be the years of implementation.