While environmentally friendly energy sources like wind and solar are attractive, their operation must be supplemented by more traditional sources—like coal—to help ensure a continuous, uninterrupted electricity supply. However, many coal alternatives come with their own pros and cons, which can hinder their adoption in a fast-changing energy landscape.
Two of EnBW’s power plants in Germany will be converted from coal to cleaner, more efficient natural gas-burning plants. EnBW will work with an international consortium led by GE Vernova to bring equipment, software, and maintenance services to the plant for a decade. This is an intermediate step to ultimately having both plants burning 100% hydrogen, currently planned in the 2030s.
The German power company Energie Baden-Württemberg (EnBW) hopes to increase power supply security for its customers while simultaneously phasing out coal and expanding renewable energy resources—in accordance with European and German regulations—by the mid-2030s.
However, while environmentally friendly energy sources like wind and solar are attractive to customers concerned about climate change, their effectiveness is hindered when the sun isn’t shining, or the wind isn’t blowing. Therefore, it’s important to find burning fuels that are cleaner than coal to help reinforce the energy grid and help prevent service disruptions.
EmBW has agreed to work with GE Vernova and an international consortium to transition a pair of its coal-fired power plants to cleaner burning natural gas. This transition involves retrofits to both the Altbach-Deizisau and Heilbronn Combined Heat and Power (CHP) stations—including construction, equipment installation, software solutions, and maintenance.
While converting both plants to natural gas alone promises to substantially reduce plant pollutants, EmBW sees it as merely a bridge to its ultimate goal: Having the plants burning 100% hydrogen sometime in the middle of the century, when hydrogen supplies are expected to be sufficient for this purpose. Each plant will not only supply electricity to the Baden-Württemberg district, but also heat for the regional heating network.
The two power plants are engineered to operate on up to 100% hydrogen by volume, in line with the national goal to deploy renewables and green hydrogen at large scale, but foremost in line with EnBW’s sustainability goals to be carbon-neutral by 2035. Others talk about hydrogen-ready power plants – we already started to build them. That makes the difference!
Senior Vice President Generation Portfolio Management, EnBW