KWI – Institute for Advanced Study in the Humanities (Kulturwissenschaftliches Intitut Essen, KWI)

Project Virtual Institute (VI): Energy Transition in North Rhine-Westphalia – Transforming Industrial Infrastructures

Project Coordination: Prof. Dr. Manfred Fischedick (Wuppertal Institute for Climate, Environment and Energy (WI))
Project Coordination KWI: Dr. Steven Engler and Prof. Dr. Claus Leggewie


Cooperation Partners:
Wuppertal Institute for Climate, Environment and Energy (WI)
Institute of Energy Economics at the University of Cologne (EWI)
Fraunhofer Institute for Environmental, Safety, and Energy Technology UMSICHT
Forschungszentrum Jülich, Institute of Energy and Climate Research: Systems Analysis and Technology Evaluation (IEK-STE)
RWTH Aachen University, Institute for Future Energy Consumer Needs and Behaviour (FCN)

Funded by: Stiftung Mercator
Duration: 06/2015 – 05/2017


The project „Energy Transition in North Rhine-Westphalia – Transforming Industrial Infrastructures“ is part of the Virtual Institute (VI) “Transformation – Energy Transition North Rhine-Westphalia”.

The transformation of energy systems in the context of the energy transition does not only create economic opportunities, but also big systemic challenges for German society, politics and economy, that render a transformation of industrial infrastructure necessary. The latter refers to transformations of technical infrastructures (for instance the system integration of renewable energies, the combination of energy flows in order to increase energy efficiency, and the optimization of industrial production processes), as well as non-technical infrastructures (for instance creating framework conditions for innovation processes within companies and politics).

The challenges that accompany the necessary industrial transformation processes are of special relevance for North Rhine-Westphalia (NRW), Germany’s most populous state with a particularly dense energy and industrial structure. In order to tackle these challenges, an appropriate policy approach must furthermore take the high spatial and socio-economic heterogeneity into account: in NRW one finds urban agglomerations like the Ruhr district and the region along the Rhine, as well as rural areas like the Sauerland and the Münsterland.

The project aims at exploring the possible transformations of industrial infrastructure in NRW on different levels (macro, meso and micro). At the macro-level, we first of all will research the systemic impacts of the energy transition on the economic structure in NRW. Economic opportunities for NRW resulting from the energy transition, and the possibility of a stronger integration of an increasingly decentralized energy system within the industrial structures in NRW will be analysed from a macroeconomic perspective.

The macroeconomic insights will be used at the meso-level for detailed case studies in particularly affected industries, regions and cities in NRW. The aim is to increase our understanding of the course of transformation processes, and the success factors thereof, as well as to create a frame for evaluating transformation processes.

At the micro-level we focus on the possibilities for designing industrial transformation processes in companies and regions. Transformation targets and strategies will be developed for selected industries or business areas. Furthermore, we will analyse possible actions within companies that facilitate adapting to an altered market landscape in the context of the energy transition. Lastly we will investigate opportunities for cooperation between companies and local / regional governments that accelerate industrial transformation processes.