Building transformation with energy. A report from the crisis.

“Scotty, energy!”, Captain Kirk calls on the bridge as a signal to his chief engineer to power up the engines and carry the USS Enterprise at the speed of light to foreign galaxies and unknown life forms. Unfortunately, it is not that simple for manufacturers of architectural and residential ceramics. The natural, durable and economical material can play a significant role in making buildings recyclable and construction sites carbon-neutral. But throughout Europe, and thus also in Germany, the energy issue is in crisis, and prices are going through the roof. Peter Heinevetter, Head of the Technical Coordination Department, and Detlef Zielke, Energy Management Officer at Deutsche Steinzeug Cremer & Breuer AG (DSCB), report on the possibilities of achieving the urgently needed ‘energy transition’ in spite of this. 

What impact is the energy crisis having on the German tile industry?
The rise in energy costs is dramatic. As a mediumsized company operating in one of the most energyintensive industries and which cannot do without the use of gas and electricity in production, we find ourselves faced with a dangerous mixture of uncertainty and pressure. The incalculable increase in energy prices places an enormous burden on our production costs. If that were not enough, there are also massive cost increases on the raw material and consumables procurement side, and thus a direct increase in our manufacturing costs.

From where do you get your power mix?
We buy energy on the wholesale market, i.e. the stock exchange, and use the derivatives market and the spot market. From 2021 to 2022, the electricity price has risen by 3.7 times on the spot market, from €50 per MWh to €185. The price of gas has become 6 times more expensive.

What is a spot or derivatives market?
That is simply explained. You can buy energy at fixed prices on the futures market in the long term. That means that you can buy energy today at a fixed price for next year or the year after. The socalled spot market is used to procure energy on a daily basis, i.e. when you actually need it. We operate in both markets because we cannot say for sure how much energy we will need at the end of a year.

What is Deutsche Steinzeug’s annual consumption of electricity and gas?
When we look at all four plants, we have a total electricity consumption of 55 million kWh, and a gas consumption of 400 million kWh. This is equivalent to the electricity and gas consumption of a small town of 30,000 inhabitants.

What do you use gas for?
First, in the spray towers. This is where the liquid is removed from the silt, a liquid clay material. Inside the tower the temperature is over 500°C. The water evaporates and the mass becomes spray-dried granulate, a fine granulate, which is then pressed into tile blanks. Depending on the process, the tiles are fired at up to 1,200°C.

Which production steps require the most energy?  
The kilns and spray dryers consume the most energy. The firing operation has a total energy consumption of 55 to 57 % and the mass preparation approx. 20 %. The rest of our energy requirement is required for moulding, packaging, lighting etc.

Is it possible to replace gas with other alternative energy sources?
Looking forward, that will be possible at some point in time. Experiments are currently being carried out with hydrogen. Up to 20 % of the gas could theoretically already be replaced by the use of admixtures. However, this hydrogen is not yet available on the market.

What are you already doing to save energy?
As a company with this high energy demand, we are already very aware of our energy consumption in our own interest. We have been certified according to DIN EN ISO 50001 for our energy management system for years, and have thus committed ourselves to using the energy we need effectively in order to save energy every year. We are also putting in place various measures to this end. For instance, key parts of our production are equipped with heat recovery systems. We have also found that we can save about 60,000 kWh of electricity during the production process by what is known as “dedusting” the machines.

Are there any other possible steps to improve the company’s environmental footprint?
DSCB has always been committed to finding advanced solutions in terms of technology and production. We are constantly working on this. Years ago we took simpler steps, such as switching to modern LED lighting in our administration offices and in the factories. Or we considered where we can operate electric drives more efficiently. It always pays to look at pumps and motors. All these measures together make an important contribution to reducing our overall energy consumption and improving our carbon footprint. We have set ourselves the goal of reducing energy consumption – i.e. electricity and gas – by another 8-10 % in 2023. The installation of photovoltaics will play a role in the next step. 


After completing his degree in the Ceramics department at the University of Applied Sciences Rhineland-Palatinate in, Peter Heinevetter started his career as a graduate engineer (FH) first in the brick industry at Wienerberger, where he laid the foundation for his expertise in strategic energy management as the plant manager of different sites. A little more than ten years later, Heinevetter took over the tile manufacturer’s energy management in various roles and positions at Deutsche Steinzeug Cremer & Breuer AG. Today he heads up the three main departments: Technical Coordination including Energy Procurement and Investment, Production Planning and Control and the Logistics Department, Central Strategic Purchasing.


Detlef Zielke is a certified energy manager and auditor (German Chamber of Industry and Commerce) and is the Energy Management Officer at Deutsche Steinzeug Cremer & Breuer AG. He started out as a Master “Industrial Ceramic Specialist”, and over time Zielke has continued to focus on energy within the company. He now has several years in a leadership role in energy management. He successfully planned, introduced and further developed the implementation and maintenance of the energy management system at all DSCB sites.