Chronicle 1946-1958

From reconstruction to international interconnected power exchange

 

1947

By dismantling German industrial plants, the Allies intend to prevent a renewed war of aggression and speed up reconstruction in war-ravaged Europe. Even RWE’s small Wesel Power Station appears on the ‘dismantling list’. On the other hand, existing power stations are being repaired and temporarily overhauled at full steam, as electricity forms the basis for a return to normal life and is essential to reconstruction. RWE’s power station capacity is restored to three-quarters and VEW’s entire power station park is reconstructed. So in 1948 electricity is no longer subject to rationing.


1948

At the initiative of RWE Chairman Heinrich Schöller, seven large electrical utilities join forces to form the interconnected power syndicate, ‘Deutsche Verbundgesellschaft’ (DVG) based in Heidelberg. Its role is to coordinate management and operation of the existing high-tension grid, construct a 400/380 kV network (previously 220 kV) which had been proposed back in the 1930s by RWE, and to thus build a high-performance interconnected grid system that would be able to supply all of West Germany.

In the course of the discussions on the future shape of the West German electrical utility industry, RWE's system of interconnected power exchange is called into question, in particular regarding the role of lignite and the influence of the regional administrative bodies. The municipalities realign: In 1947 the ‘Kommunale Aufnahmegruppe’ becomes the ‘Verband der kommunalen Aktionäre des RWE GmbH’ (VkA), Essen, essentially the former association of RWE shareholders.


1950

The STEAG agreement ends the sometimes embittered confrontations which have been taking place since 1947 between the hard coal mining industry and RWE, together with its lignite-mining companies, on priorities with respect to the creation of further power producing capacity. The Ruhr mining industry decides not to take a direct stake in public electricity supply, or expand its own grid. RWE therefore acquires large parts of the mining industry's power generating capacity and for the time being does not build any new hard coal-fired power plants. One year later the Ruhr mining industry and VEW come to a similar agreement by which the power utility agrees to purchase electricity generated by the mining companies.


1951

Even before any political moves are made towards unification, the first private-sector attempts at cooperation are seen in Europe. RWE participates in the founding of the Paris-based ‘Union for the Coordination of Production and Transmission of Electricity’ (UCTPE), which is attempting to organize the consolidation of the national high-tension networks into an interconnected grid with a view to regular international power exchange and load control in a spirit of mutual support. The aim of this is to offset temporary load peaks and weather-induced power cuts in the individual national utilities.


 

1952

RWE is the last electricity utility to be released from Allied control. The large Ruhr corporate groups and the Ruhr mining industry are split up into several companies under the so-called deconcentration plan and so - at least with respect to company law - the links created by the vertical integration of production (for example between bituminous coal mining and the foundry industry) are severed. Having refused to go through with a planned merger with other mines, the RWE mines remain with RWE and are now absorbed into the ‘Gewerkschaft des Steinkohlenbergwerks Victoria Mathias’ in Essen.


The reconstruction of RWE's power stations and the expansion and modernization of some of the existing plants (for example with upstream facilities, new boilers and turbines) gradually come to an end. In 1950, both the installed capacity and power supply break the previous records for the first time.


Now, rapidly growing demand is increasingly being satisfied by new plant construction. In the Rhenish mining district, construction is begun on the new Weisweiler, Fortuna III and Frimmersdorf II power plants, which will go on line in 1955-56.


 

1953

Settlement of Germany's foreign debt in the Treaty of London means that RWE, too, can now make secure plans for the future. As Germany's largest private sector debtor in foreign bonds - the dollar bond issues from the 1920s have only been partly redeemed - RWE is represented by Chairman Fritz Ridderbusch.


1955

The increasing prosperity of broad segments of the population (the so called ‘German economic miracle’) means that not just agriculture but private households too are once again increasingly the target of RWE's advertising. RWE is often the inspiration for the development and engineering of electric stoves, hot water heaters and night-storage heaters. Purchase of these electrical appliances is made easier for consumers by the re-introduction of installment plans.


From 1952 onwards, consumers have their own magazine again: ‘Electricity’. RWE does not limit itself to prototype kitchens and advertising films in order to portray the advantages of the electric household: In Essen's Saalbau Auditorium the ‘High Tension’ TV show directed by the later famous Showmaster Peter Frankenfeld, demonstrates the advantages of the electric kitchen to the as yet limited television audience.

Power generation commences at three new lignite-fired power stations (Fortuna III, Frimmersdorf II and Weisweiler) but these are only able to meet the huge power demand of the growing German economy for a short time. New units are added to these power stations, sometimes in consecutive years, until the early seventies.

RWE sets up a department for nuclear power research at its Essen headquarters. It closely follows international developments in nuclear energy and examines possible uses.


 

1957

For the first time ever in the Federal Republic of Germany, RWE begins operation of a 380 kV high-tension link, between Rommerskirchen (near Cologne) and Ludwigsburg (Swabia). As early as the 1920s, some of RWE's high tension lines were designed to handle 380 kV, and these formed the basis for RWE's initial plans for a European 400 kV interconnected grid system shortly before the Second World War. The leap from the previously used 220 kV to 380 kV voltage permanently increases power transmission capacity (by up to four times) and, in spite of rapidly rising electricity consumption, guarantees the ability of the extended interconnected grid system to function effectively.

Rheinelektra and Lahmeyer contribute their transmission line and switchgear construction departments to a newly founded high-voltage plant and equipment manufacturer, SAG, the 'Starkstrom-Anlagenbau-Gesellschaft mbH', in Frankfurt/Main.