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Mastering the energy transition

SWM Renewable Energies expansion campaign

Energy determines our lives. We harness energy in smartphones and computers, on subway lines and e-cars. Energy heats and cools apartments and offices, while energy sets machines in motion or lights up our environment at a push of a button. Because energy accompanies us in virtually all areas and situations of our lives, we must ensure that energy is produced and consumed as sustainably and sparingly as possible. There is no alternative if our children are to have a future worth living for: CO2 emissions must be drastically curbed – not only in Munich, but also in Germany, across Europe and throughout the world. Climate protection is a global task.

These challenges can only be mastered if policymakers, the business world, and each and every one of us are committed and act accordingly. In view of our situation, the fact that young people have resolutely taken up the issues and are out in the street demonstrating for their future cannot be appreciated highly enough. Especially as municipal energy provider, SWM is responsible for shaping the energy transition to a considerable extent. At the same time, balance must be retained. On the one hand, the transition to regenerative energy production is being consistently advanced. On the other hand, there is the crucial task, also during this transition phase, of ensuring that industry, trade and commerce, public transport and private households can rely on favorably priced supplies of power and heat.

Long before the dramatic atomic catastrophe of Fukushima and the resulting decision of the Federal Republic of Germany to phase out nuclear energy, SWM had resolved a turnaround in power generation. In the year 2008, the Renewable Energy Expansion Campaign was launched. The declared aim: By 2025, SWM intends to produce enough eco-power by its own power generation plants to cover Munich’s entire requirements. In the year 2012, the Green Heating Vision expanded the concept by a decisive building block: by 2040, SWM will cover Munich’s entire district heating requirements on a CO2-neutral basis. Tapping geothermal energy is a key component here. An additional element of climate protection is the expansion of green cooling, in order to replace individual air conditioning systems.

In the year 2018, Stadtwerke München had already generated 3.63 billion kilowatts hours of green power, of which 2.27 kilowatt hours were produced in Germany, amounting to a 63 percent share. By comparison, the average Munich household consumes 2,500 kilowatt hours of electricity per year. In the expansion of eco-electricity generation projects in the greater Munich area take priority. Today, SWM is already operating 32 photovoltaic power plants, 14 hydroelectric power plants, 1 wood chip plant, 1 biogas treatment plant, 5 geothermal plants and 1 wind power plant. Construction of a second wind power plant in Fröttmaning will commence shortly, while many regional projects are already in the planning phase. Among other measures, SWM plans to install and operate additional ground-based photovoltaic systems on its own land, as well as on leased properties. At present, SWM is already generating more green electricity than all Munich private households, as well as tramways and subways are consuming.

Due to the fact that the metropolis of Munich and its region are very densely populated, sun and wind can only be harnessed to a limited extent, while the so-called 10-H proximity regulation in Bavaria makes the expansion of wind energy virtually impossible, SWM cannot generate the volume of green power regionally that would be required. Consequently, SWM has also joined forces with experienced partners producing eco-electricity at other locations in Europe.


A clean lake for climate protection
Of course, everyone is asking the same question: Can I really be certain that I am tapping 100 percent green electricity? In most cases, the answer is no. As so often, this is due to imperative overriding technical factors. Electricity is generated across Europe and is fed into the integrated European network. In physical terms, the electricity is a mix deriving from all nuclear, coal and gas power plants, as well as eco-electricity plants and then made available to all customers. The European electrical network is comparable to a huge lake. All the sources generating electricity feed power into “electricity lake” and every party consuming power takes something out. Every regeneratively produced kilowatt-hour makes the European lake cleaner. The SWM aim is to feed the amount of green power that Munich consumes into the lake as of 2025. The participations in climate friendly power generation plants beyond Munich and its environs are just as meaningful as are those in Munich. Their positive environmental footprint benefits the citizens of Munich as well.

Heating requirements account for a total of 40 percent of the entire energy consumed in Germany. In private households, heating and water heating are even responsible for around 90 percent of total energy consumption. The demand for cooling and air conditioning is rising continuously. The air conditioning in the retail and catering sector, as well as in offices and also in residential buildings is increasingly regarded as a basic amenity. Heating and cooling account for a major share of energy consumption. Consequently, the success of the energy transition is decisively dependent on more energy efficient buildings on the one hand, and future climate friendly CO2-free energy generation.

Green heating

Consequently, SWM has also set clearly defined goals in this context: at present, district heating for more than one third of Munich’s households is generated by an environmentally friendly cogeneration process. Here, the waste heat from the generation of electricity is fed into the district heating network. By the year 2040, fossil fuels will be superseded in particular by geothermal energy. This will enable SWM to operate entirely CO2-free production of thermal energy. In parallel, the 800-kilometer-long district heating network is being made fit for green heating. In the south of Munich, and the adjacent southern regions, SWM – also in cooperation with neighbouring communities – intends to tap additional sources of geothermal energy. The SWM geothermal plants in in Kirchstockach and Dürrnhaar will be expanded as cogeneration plants. These installations and the geothermal cogeneration plant in Sauerlach will then be linked up to Munich’s district heating network. In this way, the communities in the southern district can also benefit from the SWM district heating vision. In order to implement this vision SWM will be investigating the underground conditions in the catchment area of these three facilities in greater detail in the near future.

Nord-Süd-Schnitt durch das Voralpenland
Nord-Süd-Schnitt durch das Voralpenland

Geothermal energy in and around Munich
The environs of Munich present geological preconditions for tapping geothermal energy that are likely to be more favorable than in any other region in Germany. Hot thermal water from highly permeable limestone strata (Malm) is the source of the geothermal energy. At a depth of 2,000 to more than 3,000 meters the water temperature ranges from 80 to more than 100 degrees Celsius, which is ideal for heating purposes. The water is pumped to the surface and passes through a heat exchanger, whereby energy is extracted. The cooled water is returned to the depths. In this manner, the geothermal energy cycle has no negative impacts on the eco-system.

Green cooling

District cooling is another key element of SWM’s commitment to climate protection policies. In this context, the natural eco-coldness of groundwater and urban streams is tapped to drastically reduce the power consumption in the cooling and air conditioning process. By comparison with individually generated cooling – especially in terms of conventional domestic air conditioning systems – a hefty 70 percent of the electricity requirements can be saved.

Auer-Mühlbach, Untergiesing
Auer-Mühlbach, Untergiesing

How does eco-cooling work? 
Water is cooled at a central location and supplied to customers by way of a pipeline, where it absorbs waste heat from the building air conditioning. Subsequently, it  returned via a second, parallel running pipeline  to the central cooling system, where it is cooled again and once more supplied to the customer. SWM also uses groundwater and subterranean urban streams for cooling, which is either deployed directly, or for the renewed cooling of central cooling facilities. As a closed cycle, district cooling has no impacts on 
aquatic ecology. 

Öffentliche E-Ladesäule

Pursuing its economically and ecologically sustainable strategy, SWM is shaping and designing Munich’s energy future and setting benchmarks in the global efforts to mitigate and counter climate change. The energy transition will only succeed by pursuing such comprehensive, holistic approaches. SWM stands for the consistent expansion of regenerative energy sources. Sustainability and climate protection are essential cornerstones of corporate policy. Consequently, SWM also has a keen eye on the transition in the transportation area. Munich’s subways and tramways are already powered by green electricity. Moreover, the MVG bus fleet will be converted to electric drive concepts. With regard to private transport, SWM is also acting as an electro-mobility pacemaker: by the end of the year 2019 - by order of the State Capital of Munich – a total of 550 public eco-electricity charging stations will be put on the streets, while the SWM’s own fleet will be exclusively electric.

If you wish to find out more about energy generation by SWM, please contact us.

Phone: 0800 796 796 0 *
Monday to Friday from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m.
E-Mail: customer-service@swm.de
* toll-free within Germany

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