In order to test the transformation paths to a sustainable energy system under real conditions, a model region was defined for the Northern German Living Lab, comprising the federal states of Hamburg and Schleswig-Holstein, western Mecklenburg-Western Pomerania, and Bremerhaven. The NRL model region represents the core challenges of a cross-sectoral energy transition to a certain extent and at the same time shows the great potentials for rapid decarbonization with economic perspectives for industry.
Schleswig-Holstein and western Mecklenburg-Western Pomerania are important regions for the generation of electricity from renewable sources - in balance, renewable energies will account for 130 percent of the region's electricity supply as early as 2020. This means that the conditions for the cross-sectoral use of renewable electricity are particularly favourable.
However, this is also countered by a large energy demand in the region: Final energy consumption in Hamburg, Schleswig-Holstein and Mecklenburg-Western Pomerania amounted to around 163 TWh in 2018.
This brings with it high CO2 emissions: in the model region in 2016, they amounted to 42.2 million tonnes. The Northern German Living Lab aims to show how CO2 emissions could be reduced by 75 percent by 2035 compared to the base year 1990. To achieve this goal in just 15 years, rapid defossilization of all consumption sectors is necessary.
A particular focus here is on the Hanseatic city of Hamburg: although CO2 emissions in the metropolis on the Elbe have now fallen by 18.6 percent compared with 1990, the 75 percent reduction by 2035 targeted by the NRL as an overarching goal will require considerably greater efforts. Since about 56 percent of Hamburg's emissions come from the industrial and transportation sectors, their rapid defossilization is a necessary step. It requires a comprehensive approach to industrial transformation.
As a metropolitan and industrial region, Hamburg offers a wide range of potential applications for hydrogen. Due to its spatial proximity to the RE generation regions of Schleswig-Holstein and Mecklenburg-Western Pomerania, due to the well-advanced grid expansion, and due to the high-performance grid hubs, the region also holds the potential to produce green hydrogen locally itself. This offers a unique opportunity to establish a local hydrogen economy and thus create a secure hydrogen supply for the applications planned in the Northern German Living Lab.
For the purposeful testing of innovative technologies under real-world conditions, the NRL has been divided into geographic hubs. Three of these hubs focus on integrated sector coupling based on hydrogen. They are located in Hamburg, in Mecklenburg-Western Pomerania (with a focus on Schwerin) and in Schleswig-Holstein (with sites in Brunsbüttel and Haurup).
The regional distribution of hydrogen-focused activities is based on the structure of the electricity and gas grids: focal points of hydrogen production with green electricity are created at high-performance nodes in the electricity transmission grid. Local consumption hubs with a new energy value chain will be established there. Another hub in Hamburg focuses on neighbourhood solutions in the areas of heat and mobility.
Mithilfe von 22 Demonstratoren werden relevante Verbrauchsbereiche in der Industrie, der Wärmeversorgung und dem Mobilitätssektor sukzessive defossilisiert. So umfasst das Norddeutsche Reallabor beispielsweise acht Elektrolyseure mit einer Wasserstoff-Erzeugungskapazität von 42 MW. Sie dienen insbesondere dazu, fossile Energieträger in industriellen Prozessen durch Wasserstoff bzw. dessen Folgeprodukte zu ersetzen. Außerdem werden im NRL drei Projekte umgesetzt, die eine Abwärmenutzung in einem Umfang von 700 GWh pro Jahr ermöglichen. Im Rahmen der NRL-Aktivitäten im Mobilitätssektor werden mehrere Wasserstoff-Tankstellen und über 200 Fahrzeuge in unterschiedlichen Nutzungsszenarien erprobt. Eine Besonderheit des Projekts ist sein gesamtsystemischer Ansatz, der neben den geplanten Erprobungsvorhaben auch Querschnittsthemen berücksichtigt, die sich mit der volkswirtschaftlichen und der gesellschaftlichen Dimension des geplanten Transformationspfads befassen.