North Rhine-Westphalia (NRW) is the most populous state in Germany, with some 18 million inhabitants. And climate change is firmly on the agenda. Since 1995, the city of Bonn has been home to the UNFCCC Secretariat, becoming the epicenter of all international climate activities between the annual Summits.
Despite being heavily industrialized (37 of the 100 largest companies in Germany are based in NRW and it has strengths in coal and steel, other metals, chemicals and machine and auto-manufacturing) as well as being fairly energy-intensive (30% of Germany’s energy production and 40% of its consumption take place in NRW, producing some 32% of national carbon emissions) the state has the highest potential for emissions reductions.
The great effort that the NRW Government is putting into decarbonizing its economy and facilitating lower carbon futures for its businesses and residents, shows its clear commitment to tackling the challenges of climate change.
And the first step for NRW is huge. 87% of NRW’s energy comes from coal and gas. Yet in 1990 the state embarked on its epic journey towards decarbonization and has since made vast strides towards reaching this goal.
The state has comprehensive targets across all sectors to help tackle its climate impact:
- GHG reduction (overall): Through its own Climate Change Bill, NRW intends to reduce its emissions 25% (at least) compared to 1990 levels by 2020 and 80% (at least) by 2050
- Power: By focusing on decentralized energy and by removing some of the planning hurdles inhibiting progress in this area, NRW now aims to achieve a 15% share of total energy generation from renewables by 2020 (this currently sits at 5%)
- Transport: It aims to bring at least 250,000 Electric Vehicles (EV) to market by 2020. The Rhine-Ruhr area is also one of eight German model regions for electro-mobility. Currently there are around 200 vehicles (including cars, electro-scooters and bicycles, commercial vehicles, hybrid buses and waste collection vehicles) and 500 charging stations undergoing practical trials.
- Industry: It will be defined by the EU Emissions Trading Scheme. The NRW Bank provides a €200 million low-interest loan program for energy efficiency investments in the industry
- Buildings: Intends to increase total heat pumps installed in NRW to 200,000 by 2020, as well as spend €200 million annually as a subsidy program for the energy efficient refurbishment of buildings
- Agriculture: 3 million additional trees by 2015 as part of the Billion Trees Initiative. NRW welcomes the new €35 million forest climate fund set up by the German Federal Government
- Government: By 2030, the state Government intends to be carbon neutral
Much of the effort to achieve these targets is driven through the state’s dedicated energy agency – EnergieAgentur.NRW – a central hub providing advice and information on energy efficiency for thousands of individuals from business and society. The agency also manages the energy economy cluster, EnergieRegion.NRW, and the energy research cluster,CEF.NRW.
Below, some of the highlights achieved by the Agency and the state at large are highlighted.
Clean economy, more jobs
Between 1988 and 2007, €700 million was spent on 60,000 projects concerned with the development, demonstration and market launch of innovative energy technologies. These funds attracted further investment of €3.8 billion.
According to a 2010 IWR study, around 26,500 workers are employed in NRW by 3,500 companies in the field of renewable energy, collectively generating some €8.3 billion – demonstrating the clear viability of the low carbon economy.
In 2008-11 €70 million funded an additional 14,700 projects.