Mr. Brockmeier, for years we’ve been hearing that it’s no longer viable to build new gas-fired plants in Germany. Why did you decide to do just that in 2010?
Even back then we were thinking mainly in terms of a product-led rather than a generation-led strategy. In other words, we were asking ourselves what product was relevant for the Düsseldorf market. The answer was heat and power, generated in an environmentally and climate-friendly manner. And in an urban agglomeration it was clear that we’d have to use combined heat and power to generate it.
Even though at the time we were predicting much higher electricity prices for 2016-18, in retrospect we still believe it was the right decision. Especially when we look at the difficult situation other plants generating only electricity find themselves in. There was also an economic dimension to our decision: the fact that the German government is promoting CHP plants alongside its subsidies for renewables.
But what sets you apart from the rest?
Here we run a cogeneration plant that also produces carbon-free district heat, which under the law is equivalent to renewable energy. There is a large and expanding market for this in a city like Düsseldorf. So the heat produced by our plant is not only an important contribution to sustainability, it’s also a key in terms of economic viability. It means that changes in the price of electricity are less relevant for us.
People protested the original plans to build a coal-fired plant here. How did the citizens of Düsseldorf react to SWD’s decision six years ago to construct a CHP plant?
Very positively – despite Düsseldorf’s history as a center of coal. We spent a lot of time talking with politicians, citizens, and the NGOs about what the role of a power plant in a modern city is in the first place.
We wanted to make the plant a component of the urban infrastructure – which also explains the sophisticated architecture of the “Fortuna” block. The idea is that the plant not only supplies the city, but it belongs to the city.
We also had a lot of discussion with people about how the plant can help achieve the climate targets. This protracted phase of open discussion ultimately generated a lot of support for the project. In the approval phase there wasn’t a single objection. That’s very unusual indeed for such a big project in the midst of a city.