RWE…… “The Energy to Lead”

June 5, 2012 at 12:09 am 2 comments

Before I start with a recap of my first vocational day with RWE, I want to echo Marie’s sentiments about Gelsenkirken. I think we all had a terrific week and it was because of our fantastic hosts. In each of our first two weeks in Munster and Gelsenkirken we have had extraordinarily hospitable and welcoming Rotary guides, andI have been blessed with equally amazing host family’s. In Munster it was the Rolfes family, and in Gelsenkirken it was the Foer family, led by Rotary member Rainer Foer and his wife Birgit. They were fantastic to stay with and learn from. Thank you!

In Willich I have been invited to stay with Arndt and Nicole Braukmann, both of which work for the RWE, which is the 2nd largest electric and gas utility company in Germany, and also serves customers and has business ventures around the world. In addition to their vast knowledge about RWE and the German energy industry, they are terrific people and great hosts. They also have two small children which are a treat to watch run around the house and play.

Yesterday Arndt, (a corporate lawyer by trade but now focuses mostly on developing new renewable energy projects for RWE) took me to a brand new renewable energy biomass power plant in a small town named Goch. This combined heat and power plant will burn roughly 10 tons of wood product daily to produce electricity for the grid, and steam for a neighboring potato food processing company named Engel Food Solutions. RWE is actually beginning final testing on the plant today, and hopes to be operational by August. It was amazing. Everything new and state of the art. There was even a painter amongst all the technicians and construction workers yesterday putting on the final touches of paint. The project cost around $34 million and will generate 5 mega watts of power on average. This is fairly small for a couple of reasons. The German government subsidizes this type of renwable biomass power production up to 5 mega watts. After that the power must be sold at the going rate on the open market, which right now in Germany would be far less per mega watt hour than the cost to operate the plant and generate the power. Another reason is that this plant was constructed in the middle of town, so it is not a typical power plant in terms of shear size. The reason for building the new plant in the middle of town was to be near their sole steam customer, Engel Food Solutions. Having a steam customer next door truly made this project viable. It sounds as though this combined heat and power plant venture is something RWE would like to replicate moving forward, the trick is finding the right location near the right steam customer.

After a few hours walking through the new power plant, we were able to walk across the street and take a quick tour of Engel Food Solutions. Here the owner walked us through his massive plant, which employs several hundred local workers from Goch, and described for us why having power and steam from this new renewable energy facility next door was so important for him and his company. Engel Food Solutions wanted to walk the talk in terms about being an environmentally sensitive company, and working together to make a new renewable energy project possible in his town was very important for him. So important that he owns a 10% stake in the power plant as well! Mr. van den Boom of Engel was even gracious enough to send me away with some of his potato products, although I’m not sure how I will get them home yet 🙂

After the tour and conversation at Engel, Arndt and I took a drive to Essen where we looked at some of the RWE corporate offices. Two places were particularly impressive. One, was the massive trading floor which looks like the floor of the New York Stock Exchange. Roughly 400 employees (and hundreds more tvs and computer monitors) buzzed around trading energy, carbon credits, and more. This energy trading floor at RWE is only a few years old and is the largest of it’s kind in all of Europe. It was a sight to see, too bad I could not take any photos! Bummer. Next we drove a few blocks away to the main corporate building, which is 28 floors high and about 10 years old. We took an elevator ride to the top so we could out across the Rhineland, which was fairly easy considering the elevator was made completely of glass and actually was encased on the exterior of the building. Once we returned to the ground floor we looked over an art exhibit in the lobby in which the artist used the company’s history in hydro-electric power to tell a story and educate RWE guests. Pretty interesting stuff. Because this part of northwestern Germany is devoid of mountains like in southern Germany or Washington state for that matter, they have had a slightly different style of hydro-electric power generation than we are accustomed to in the great northwest. It is was interesting to learn more about their company history through art.

I will spend the next two days with RWE as well. This morning I will tour a different style of coal mine than we saw from nearly 1 mile underground in Gelsenkirken. This is more of an open pit and they are mining for brown coal not black coal. apparently it also has 6 or 8 machines excavating the coal, each worth roughly $250 million. Should be fun!

– Cory

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2 Comments Add your own

  • 1. Rob Martin  |  June 5, 2012 at 7:10 am

    Excellent Cory! I am glad you had an opportunity this new plant!

    Reply
  • 2. billrobson1  |  June 5, 2012 at 7:13 am

    It sounds like this is just the right place for you, and it looks like you are having fun with this tour. Good stuff.

    Reply

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