A Plan for Everything
The alarm sounding loudly at RWE’s headquarters in Essen startles everyone on the teleconference, whether they’re at the site themselves or connected from other locations. “That came right on cue,” remarks Dr. Cord-Henrich Lefhalm, a mechanical engineer and physicist who has just been describing the utility company’s emergency plans, including those for the coronavirus pandemic. As division head of decommissioning and dismantling for RWE Nuclear GmbH, he is supervising the overall process of dismantling RWE’s five nuclear power stations by the mid-2030s. That task is based on a decision in 2011 by the German government to phase out the country’s nuclear power facilities. When the coronavirus pandemic broke out, Lefhalm became the head of RWE Nuclear’s crisis management team and therefore also a member of the crisis team for the entire RWE Group.
The company’s four subsidiaries—RWE Renewables, RWE Generation, RWE Power (to which RWE Nuclear belongs) and RWE Supply & Trading—provide around forty-three gigawatts of electricity to households in Germany, Europe, and the US. In the fall of 2019, RWE entered an agreement with the German energy group E.ON to take over the latter’s entire portfolio of renewable energies, which made it one of Europe’s three largest providers in the field. RWE is also number two in the world in the offshore wind energy sector. The RWE Group expects to become climate-neutral by 2040. It employs a total of around 20,000 people and is one of the critical companies as defined by Germany’s Federal Office for Information Security (BSI). “Our top priority is to maintain the power supply under any and all circumstances,” says energy specialist Lefhalm.
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