The State of North Rhine-Westphalia

Population: 17.8 million (2012)

GDP: EUR540 billion (2012)

Country: Germany

GHG emissions (year): 305 million tons CO2e (2012)

North Rhine Westphalia (NRW) is the most important industrial location in Germany and economically, is one of the strongest regions in Europe. Thirty-seven of the 100 biggest German companies are based here. Its strengths lie in coal and steel, the chemical industry, machine manufacturing, metal production and the automobile industry.

The economic success of these sectors is dependent on a strong energy sector. 34% of Germany’s primary energy production and 32% of its consumption take place in NRW. Because about 33% of national carbon emissions are produced in the region, it has the highest potential for emissions reductions.

The region is taking a leading role in the research and development of clean technology, and it was the first German state to adopt its own Climate Change Bill. The Bill adopted in January 2013 includes a reduction in carbon emissions in NRW by at least 25% by 2020 and by at least 80% by 2050 (compared to 1990 levels). These targets are particularly impressive when you look at the state’s current generation mix, with coal producing 75.8% of electricity and gas another 11%. Targets will be achieved through a number of measures including energy conservation and efficiency, and the expansion of renewable energy. By 2030, the Bill also says the state Government will be carbon neutral.

Strategies to meet and review the targets will be defined by a new Climate Change Council, and climate protection goals will be introduced as objectives of regional planning; a Climate Protection Plan setting intermediary goals for GHG emissions reductions, renewable energy use and energy efficiency, as well as outlining concrete measures to reach them, have been presented in 2013 and will be renewed every five years.

The NRW Energy Agency is working in key areas such as energy research, technological development, demonstration and deployment, energy consulting, public awareness and vocational training. It aims to promote the development of innovative energy technologies in NRW and provide neutral guidance on energy efficiency and renewable energy to both industry and private households.

The state also manages the Energy Region NRW and Energy Research CEF NRW clusters, to conduct research and facilitate technology transfer between science and industry.

  • Current activities

    Renewable Energy:

    The new climate protection bill plans for a substantial increase in renewable energy generation, focusing on decentralized production as well as increased influence and independence of citizens. Intermediate targets have been set in the Climate Protection Action Plan, presented in 2013.

    A plan passed in July 2011 removes some important hurdles on the way towards increasing wind energy production to 15% by 2020.

    The initiative “Heat pumps market place NRW” aims to increase the number of heat pumps installed in NRW to 200,000 by 2020.

    Energy efficiency:

    Energy efficiency features as a key aspect in the planned Climate Protection Bill, and concrete targets have been presented in the Climate Protection Action Plan in 2013.

    The NRW Energy Agency supports small and medium sized companies in utilizing energy efficiency.

    State-financed independent energy consultancy centers offer free consumer advice, and special support programs provide assistance to house owners for the energy refurbishment of residential buildings. 

    The project “100 Climate Protection Housing Estates in North Rhine-Westphalia” aims to consistently reduce thermally generated CO2 emissions in housing developments (new and rehabilitated buildings) through a combination of energy efficiency measures and a stronger use of renewable energy sources.

    Clean transportation:

    NRW aims to become Europe’s first large-scale model region for electro-mobility, and bring at least 250,000 sustainable vehicles with electrical power trains to market by 2020. The Rhine-Ruhr area is also one of eight German model regions for electro-mobility promoted by the Federal Ministry of Transport, Building and Urban Development

    Electro-mobility is promoted along the entire value chain along with the required infrastructural changes, supporting the extension of clean electric mobility in conjunction with renewable energies. 

    The “North Rhine-Westphalia Hydrogen HyWay” runs along the hydrogen pipeline from the Aachen/Duren region via Cologne, Dusseldorf and Essen to the Northern parts of the Ruhr area. Hydrogen-fuelled public buses and filling stations are being developed and tested in order to make hydrogen competitive and to accelerate market maturity of these vehicles.

    Urban environment/smart cities:

    InnovationCity Ruhr”, recently completed, showcases the low carbon capabilities of smart cities. Ambitious city district councils were challenged to develop concepts for a comprehensive energy efficiency refurbishment. In Bottrop, the winning city, an entire city quarter with around 50,000 inhabitants will now work to reduce its energy consumption by 50% by 2020 using a variety of technologies and initiatives.

  • More info

    Devolved powers and competencies relevant to climate and energy:

    NRW is dependent on a strong energy sector. 34% of Germany’s primary energy production and 24% of its consumption take place in NRW. About 33% of national carbon emissions are produced in the region, and it has the highest potential for emissions reductions.

    Most important economic sectors:

    Thirty-seven of the 100 biggest German companies have their seat here. It has strengths in coal and steel, the chemical industry, machine manufacturing, metal production and the automobile industry. 

    GHG breakdown by sector (%):













    Current power sector mix (%):















    For more information about regional activities, please see here.


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