Lignite remains a reliable partner to this day. Around one quarter of Germany’s electricity requirements are covered by its combustion in increasingly efficient and flexible power plants. 12 % is provided by the seams in the lignite triangle of Aachen, Cologne and Mönchengladbach alone. This is the largest cohesive lignite seam in Europe, and RWE Power extracts around 100 million tonnes every year. Found close to the surface, the fuel is dug out of the Garzweiler, Hambach and Inden mines by enormous diggers, including the largest of its kind in the world, which once played starring role in a TV documentary by the Disney Channel. Our power plants in the coalfields generate around 70 billion kilowatt-hours of electricity from the lignite.
Refinement and research
Around 10 % of the lignite is refined and made into pulverised lignite, briquettes for heating and barbecuing, or into coke. These fuels are also in high demand internationally, which means that new and innovative products have good chances of capturing new sales markets.
The RWE Innovation Centre in Niederaussem plays a role in this. Here, we not only research how to reduce CO2 emissions, but also how carbon dioxide from the power plants’ flue gas can be turned into plastics that can be used for the manufacture of cars, mattresses, furniture and even lipsticks.
Protecting the climate is important to us
There’s no way around it – burning coal releases pollutants. However, protecting the climate is just as important to us as securing the electricity supply. For this reason, we have continued to optimise our power plants, for example, by significantly improving their efficiency. In this way, we have already spared the environment millions of tonnes of CO2 emissions over the years. Despite this, the further reduction of emissions towards a carbon neutral energy supply is a constant challenge for RWE, and one that we are fully committing to researching and working towards.
Any resettlement that is necessary as a result of the expansion of our mines or mining damage is treated with the greatest possible sensitivity and we are engaged in ongoing, open dialogue with the authorities, communities, decision-makers and affected citizens.
Paradise for threatened wildlife
The recultivation projects in our former mining areas are seen as prime examples of their kind. Where coal heaps once dominated the skyline, sensitively restored areas are now a paradise for threatened species of plants and animals, some of which had already been declared extinct. We have received praise from internationally renowned experts, as well as local and national nature conservation associations.
Our water management also plays a role in protecting the environment, where the lower groundwater from the mines is not only processed into drinking water in our own facilities, but also to make even more “environmentally conscious” water. This ensures that levels in habitats for rare flora and fauna such as wetlands and marshlands are kept stable.
Essential in the energy transition
The political debate regarding the use of lignite has intensified in recent years. We are active partners in this discussion and happy to address the issues objectively with all parties, opponents and supporters. We consider it essential to emphasise that this valuable raw material will remain vital in the future, too – as a partner in the energy transition. After all, it’s always there – even if the wind isn’t blowing and the sun is not shining. Reliable, safe, cheap.