Research project investigates energy system transformation in industry

Germany’s manufacturing industry employs seven million people but is also responsible for one fifth of the country’s harmful greenhouse gas emissions. Since 2018, a research project has therefore been examining how the energy transition can be successfully implemented in industry.

Factory made of plants© malp -

The final report on Work Package 1 of the 'Energy Transition in Industry' research project has recently been published. The report looks at what industrial companies can do to reduce their greenhouse gas emissions. The impact that this will have on the energy sector is also examined. By 2021, there needs to be a clear idea about what contribution industry can make to making the economy almost greenhouse gas neutral whilst still safeguarding its successful position in international competition.

Within the framework of the Paris Climate Agreement, Germany has indeed committed itself to doing its part to help limit global warming. The Federal Republic of Germany is to be virtually greenhouse gas neutral by 2050. But this cannot be achieved without changes in industry.

Certain sectors face particular challenges in mitigating climate change

Not all sectors generate the same level of greenhouse gas emissions. The report therefore looks at eight of the most energy-intensive sectors. A large volume of carbon emissions are created by metal production and processing (e.g. steel), the production of non-ferrous metals (e.g. aluminium, copper, zinc), basic chemicals, the glass, cement, lime and ceramics industries as well as the paper and food industries. A focus in the report is also placed on analysing the impact of horizontal technologies, such as those used in the automotive industry.

Outcomes of the first report

In order to make the transition to an almost greenhouse gas neutral economy, emissions in the industrial sector also need to be widely reduced. In order to achieve this, the report identifies a number of different solutions in which five key approaches have a role to play: the gradual improvement of energy and material efficiency, the use of biomass and synthetic fuels, power-to-heat technologies (heating with renewable electricity) and the underground storage of carbon dioxide (Carbon Capture and Storage, or CCS).

There are several ways of combining these options. Some scenarios are based on the assumption that emissions savings can be best achieved by increasing the use of synthetic fuels and power-to-heat. Others tend to rely more on biomass and carbon storage for reducing emissions. But there is agreement that if greenhouse gas emissions in industry are to be widely reduced, process-related emissions must also be significantly scaled back – either through the use of synthetic fuels or through carbon storage.