A climate-neutral industrial sector needs huge quantities of sustainably generated energy
In 2019, energy consumption in the industrial sector in North Rhine-Westphalia was at 218 terawatt-hours. That equates to 37 per cent of total energy consumption in the state of NRW. In Germany as a whole, the ratio is just under 30 per cent.
Industry needs the bulk of its energy to produce heat. Since this is currently still produced using fossil fuels in many cases, greenhouse gas emissions are substantial. About 40 per cent of global carbon dioxide emissions are caused by heat production, with half of this going into industry as process heat. In Germany too, the industrial sector needs about two thirds of its total energy consumption to provide process heat. Industrial buildings such as offices and factory buildings need heat too, for example, for heating and providing warm water in sanitary facilities. In order to ensure a climate-neutral future for industry, both building-related heating and the provision of process heat, for example for smelting, industrial furnaces and process steam, must be converted to sustainable and renewable sources of heating. Proposals for how this extremely urgent transition in the production of process heat can succeed are being compiled by the IN4climate.NRW Think Tank, which has been part of NRW.Energy4Climate since 2022.
About 30 per cent of the industrial sector’s energy demands are currently needed in the form of electricity. For example, compressors and pumps use electricity to turn it into mechanical energy. Alongside this, lighting, information and communications technology (ICT) and refrigerators need electrical power, as do very power-intensive manufacturing processes such as fused-salt electrolysis for aluminium production. To facilitate a climate-neutral industrial future, all areas of industry must reduce their electricity consumption as much as possible and the remaining demand should be met using electricity generated by renewable energy sources. Despite the greatest increase possible in efficiency, a growing demand for electricity is envisaged in the industrial sector in the future, because electrification is feasible and would be effective in many processes where fossil fuels are currently still being used. Replacing coal, oil and gas with renewable forms of energy is a key step towards being able to generate high temperature heat without causing emissions in the future.