The emergence of industry was always linked to the proximity to energy – energy for operating machines and plants and for the production of process heat. In the Niederrhein region it was primarily fossil fuels that were used: hard coal in the north, lignite in the south. Hard coal mining in the Niederrhein region is now history. Lignite, on the other hand, will continue to play a huge role for a long time to come.
With a share of almost 25 percent in Germany’s electricity generation, today lignite is the number one primary energy carrier. The lignite power stations in the Niederrhein region and in the neighboring southern area alone provide 15 percent of Germany’s electricity requirements and even half of North Rhine-Westphalia’s.
There are 1.3 billion tons of lignite in the Garzweiler surface mine near Grevenbroich. RWE Power intends to convert these natural resources into electricity by 2045 in its neighbouring power stations, including in Neurath, where two new power station blocks, each with a gross electrical output of 1,100 megawatts, came on stream in 2012. They produce base load electricity more efficiently and in a more environmentally friendly way than anywhere else in the world.
The beneficiaries include industrial enterprises that depend on a reliable supply of high power outputs – for example, Hydro, Germany’s largest aluminium mill, and Alu Norf, the world’s largest aluminium rolling mill with the world’s largest foundry.