Integrated energy networks for a successful energy transition

Inconspicuous but vital: energy networks continuously and reliably transport electricity, gas and heat to industrial processes, commerce and homes. Ensuring their stability is essential for our daily lives and a functioning economy, even during the energy transition. 

As a densely populated federal state with both rural and industrial regions, North Rhine-Westphalia has very well-developed power, gas and heating networks with reliable supply. However, the energy transition requires extensive changes in the energy supply system and energy networks. To achieve this, the following challenges must be met in all network areas:


Stable operation of power networks

So far, centralised power generation has been based on fossil fuels and nuclear energy. The system is already switching to largely decentralised generation using renewable energy. Electricity distributed throughout the country from renewable generation facilities must be fed into the network. The challenge is that it is mainly fed into other voltage levels and is volatile.


Through “sector coupling”, areas such as mobility (e.g. electric cars) and heat (e.g. heat pumps) are increasingly being electrified. As a result, the power demand is rising sharply. Temporally limited peaks in power demand are also called load peaks. These load peaks represent a major challenge for power distribution networks. If electric cars are charged while heating systems are turned up during the winter, this can exceed the thermal load capacity of the distribution networks.

Making natural gas networks fit for green gases

Gas networks, which until now have transported fossil natural gas, are an important component in transforming the energy system. It is important to use the transport and storage potential of the very well-developed infrastructure:


  • Flexible gas-fired power plants can ensure supply security in times of coal and nuclear power phase-out. However, these new power plants will only be temporarily operated using fossil gas to comply with climate protection targets. Switching to operation using hydrogen and synthetic gases is essential. The gas network of the future will follow these steps and be converted to transport green hydrogen and synthetic gases.
  • The industrial sector based in North Rhine-Westphalia is increasingly becoming dependent on the supply of green hydrogen to decarbonise it industrial processes. The solution is to develop hydrogen infrastructure that connects industry both to electrolysers inside and outside of North Rhine-Westphalia and to hydrogen-importing North Sea ports. Converting existing sections of the gas network will enable us to rapidly develop a hydrogen network across Europe.


In addition to advancing the gas network, existing gas storage facilities must also be converted to operate using green gases. Storage facilities make an important contribution to the energy system becoming more flexible and to sector coupling.

Further expanding heating networks

On the way to climate neutrality, it is essential to orchestrate the heat transition based on increasingly expanding heating networks. Heat networks can transport heat from cogeneration, industrial waste heat and regeneratively generated heat to consumers.


In particular, the use of existing industrial waste heat is becoming increasingly important. In the future, we may also be able to use waste heat from electrolysers for heat supply. Combined heat and power generation will lose importance due to the declining use of fossil fuels, but will play a new decisive role in the future climate-neutral heat supply: green hydrogen will replace fossil fuels. Additionally, heat pumps in particular will supply the heat networks.

Considering energy networks, consumption and generation together

In order to develop North Rhine-Westphalia into one of the most modern and climate-friendly industrial and economic regions in Europe, both the energy networks and energy generation and consumption must be considered holistically. Only then can the energy transition succeed. NRW.Energy4Climate supports stakeholders in developing innovative project ideas and accompanies consortia in the implementation of flagship projects that prepare our energy networks for the transformation. 

Find out more on these pages

Want to learn more about transport networks? Then click here.

Want to learn more about distribution networks? Then click here.

Want to know more about the system development plan? Then click here.