The transformation of industrial infrastructures: Seizing the opportunities of the energy transition

North Rhine-Westphalia knows all about structural change. Whether it is in metropolitan areas such as the Ruhr region or rural areas such as the Sauerland, changes in the economic structure always entail numerous challenges and the energy transition involves many additional ones. The Virtual Institute “Transformation – Energy Transition NRW”, a joint project currently involving ten scientific institutions, is analysing the opportunities that the energy transition presents for structural change in NRW.

In the “Transformation of industrial infrastructures” project, the research team is investigating what effects the energy transition has on the economic structure of North Rhine-Westphalia. Other questions focus on the increasing decentralisation of the energy system.

Engine for progress:

  • Comprehensive analysis of the opportunities and risks associated with the energy transition for NRW
  • Interlinked analysis at macro, meso and micro levels
  • Development of transformation scenarios and strategies
  • Recommendations for company and political decision-makers

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Photo: Virtuelles Institut „Transformation - Energiewende NRW)

Three levels of the energy transition in NRW

Three levels are considered in this project: at the macro level, the economic opportunities of the energy transition for NRW are investigated. Here, the researchers observed that energy is more important as an economic factor in NRW than in other federal states in Germany. The added-value effects as a result of the energy transition are below average, however, compared to the state’s economic power.

The insights gained are used at the meso level for case-based analyses in sectors that are particularly affected and in different regions. These serve to increase the understanding of the procedures and success factors that are involved in positive transformation processes and to enable their evaluation. According to the results, collaboration between companies in different sectors (primarily at regional level) presents a great potential that has not yet been exhausted.

At the micro level, the research team is investigating how this collaboration can be instigated. They are analysing what potential for action exists within companies and how the collaboration can be moderated. In this context, they are also examining what types of collaboration between companies and policy makers can accelerate industrial transformation processes.

A path to transformation for industry

The project demonstrates future value creation potential and transformation objectives and strategies for industry in NRW using selected industrial sectors. The importance of collaboration is particularly clear: industrial enterprises and small companies or private households can jointly achieve synergy effects in terms of energy and on a financial level and they can benefit from innovative potential – even across industrial boundaries.

The final publication documenting the project is aimed equally at scientific and political experts.

Photo: private

The project makes an important contribution to informing the discussion on the economic implications of the energy transition in NRW, by considering its impact at different levels: for the overall economy of NRW, for its regions and for individual sectors. It thus helps to find the appropriate tools to cushion any potential negative economic effects.

Daniel Vallentin, Wuppertal Institute

Partners and sponsors

  • Wuppertal Institut für Klima, Umwelt, Energie
  • Energiewirtschaftliches Institut an der Universität zu Köln (EWI)
  • Fraunhofer-Institut für Umwelt-, Sicherheits- und Energietechnik UMSICHT
  • Forschungszentrum Jülich Institut für Energie- und Klimaforschung – Systemforschung und Technologische Entwicklung (IEK-STE)
  • RWTH Aachen, Institute for Future Energy Consumer Needs and Behaviour (FCN)
  • Kulturwissenschaftliches Institut Essen (KWI)
  • Mercator Stiftung