The Ruhr district heating grid: Europe's most extensive district heating network is being developed between the Ruhr and the Lower Rhine districts

District heating has been an important component of heating supply in the Ruhr and Lower Rhine regions for more than 50 years. Over this period, two transregional district heating networks have been established: the Ruhr district heating grid and the Lower Rhine district heating grid. Now three key actors want to combine these networks in order to create the ‘Western Grid’ (‘Westverbund’), which will be the biggest district heating network in Europe.

Customers in the Ruhr Region have benefited from district heating since 1960. This energy source was particularly valued during the heyday of the coal and steel industry because of its contribution to cleaner air. After the first oil crisis, there was increasing interest in the significance of local, reliable and economical sources of energy. As the first transregional district heating network in Germany, the Ruhr district heating grid supplied environmentally friendly heating based on combined heat and power (CHP) cogeneration.

Engine for progress:

  • climate protection as an engine for progress:
  • in the generation of 1 MWh of district heating 68.8 kg CO2/60 per cent less fuel is used
  • in the combined Ruhr and Lower Rhine district heating grid the planned CHP share will be higher than 90 per cent
  • through the Western Grid, only €22/t CO2 abatement costs will arise (among the best values covered by the German Renewable Energy Law (EEG))
  • pioneering role in the design, management and transregional extension/connection of district heating systems

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Photo: Steag

The FWSRR is one of KlimaExpo.NRW’s 1,000 steps. Udo Wichert (centre) making a symbolical footprint. NRW Economic Affairs Minister Garrelt Duin (right) and KlimaExpo.NRW Managing Director Dr. Heinrich Dornbusch (left) at the ceremony. 

Meanwhile district heating is predominantly generated through CHP and waste incinerators, but also increasingly from decentralised heat sources such as industrial waste heat and renewable energy sources.

Three billion kWh per year

Three district heating companies – STEAG Fernwärme GmbH, Fernwärmeversorgung Niederrhein GmbH and Energieversorgung Oberhausen AG – supply a total of annually around three billion kWh of climate-friendly heating to almost half a million homes with a supply network of over 1,400 km. In March 2015, these companies founded the Fernwärmeschiene Rhein-Ruhr GmbH (FWSRR) (Rhine-Ruhr District Heating Grid), which is promoting the major climate network project and will implement it.

New company for major project

Following the positive findings of the feasibility study on ‘District heating perspectives in the Ruhr Region up to 2050’ (German title: ‘Perspektiven der Fernwärme im Ruhrgebiet bis 2050’), the Western Grid is now preparing for the planning approval process. The construction approval should be given by early 2017 and the connecting line could be operational as early as 2019. The Grid is creating a flexible regional system of heating supply, which is adapted to the new requirements of the energy market and creates new possibilities for the integration of decentralised renewable energy producers and industrial waste heat. It will lead to the long-term reduction of CO2 emissions and thus make a special contribution to the transformation of the energy system in the State of NRW.

Photo: Fernwärmeschiene Rhein-Ruhr GmbH

“The integration of the district heating networks offers a major potential for meeting human needs in NRW. This concrete ‘local transformation of the energy system’ can help make the vision of the Ruhr Metropolitan Area as the green capital of Europe a reality.

Udo Wichert – Spokesman for the Management Board of STEAG Fernwärme GmbH

Partners and sponsors

  • Fernwärmeschiene Rhein-Ruhr GmbH
  • STEAG Fernwärme GmbH
  • Energieversorgung Oberhausen AG (evo)
  • Fernwärmeversorgung Niederrhein GmbH
  • Landesregierung NRW