Climate protection – protecting our basic living conditions
The reduction of greenhouse gases and protection of the Earth’s atmosphere are among the priorities when striving to achieve sustainable development. The aluminium industry is part of the solution. Continual process improvements and extremely light products play a key role here.
Renewable energy on the rise
The large amount of energy initially needed to produce aluminium means the necessary energy must be made available ecologically and at the same time economically. Primary aluminium smelters are built at locations where there is a reliable supply of energy. The power supply for the smelters in Africa, America and Europe is mainly based on hydroelectric power. Other smelters, for example in the Gulf region, operate using electricity generated from gas, the locally available energy source. In yet other regions, locally available fossil fuels are used to generate the electricity required.
Germany has introduced the concept of using the electrolysis process as a ‘virtual battery’. This means the power supply to the electrolysis process will be made more flexible: if wind turbines and photovoltaic units are producing enough electricity to supply the national grid, electrolysis will be carried out at full power. Renewable energy will thus be used efficiently and emissions will be reduced. If, however, there is not enough energy available to supply the grid, for example when there is calm or a solar eclipse, the electrolysis plant will be shut down temporarily. In this case, the electrolysis plant acts like a battery and stabilises the grid.
Electricity supply for electrolysis
Diagram showing the sources of the electricity used for electrolysis by region (status: 2015).