Giving energy efficiency a good home

Climate-neutral buildings by 2050: plenty of room for energy savings.

Gebäude als Wärmebild ©

Energy bills so high they give you the shivers – Are they the price to pay for a warm, cosy sitting room? Well, not necessarily. Especially not if your house meets the latest efficiency standards. But it’s also a fact that there are more than 19 million residential buildings in Germany whose energy performance has only been partially improved – if at all. This means that there is true potential for house owners and tenants to save energy and cash. It turns out that 95 per cent of tenants living in an ‘efficiency house’ stand by their decision and would recommend others to move into a home that has been brought in line with high energy standards.

Save energy and money

Over the next two decades, roughly half of Germany’s building stock will need modernising. Home owners thus have a golden opportunity to improve their building’s energy performance at the same time. Energy savings of up to 80 per cent are possible, depending on how far you go.

The German government also wants to tap into the savings potential that lies dormant in the German building stock. Buildings account for almost 35 per cent of our total final energy consumption. Most of this energy is used for heating and hot water. The German government has set itself a very ambitious target. By 2050, buildings in Germany are to be close to climate-neutral, meaning there should be hardly any carbon emissions from buildings. Primary energy demand, i.e. demand for fossil fuels such as oil and gas, is to be curbed by approx. 80 per cent.

Energy Efficiency Strategy for Buildings

On 18 November, the Federal Cabinet adopted a roadmap detailing exactly how carbon emissions from buildings are to be brought down. The ‘Energy Efficiency Strategy for Buildings’ (Energieeffizienzstrategie Gebäude’ (German only) is part of the government’s overall National Action Plan on Energy Efficiency (NAPE). Under this plan of action, the government wants to reduce Germany’s total final energy consumption by 50 per cent between 2008 and 2050. The 20 per cent mark is to be reached by 2020.

Commenting on the new strategy, Federal Minister for Economic Affairs Sigmar Gabriel said: “Great news. This is another area where renewables are taking off. We are likely to beat our own 2020 target for heating energy from renewable sources. At the same time, we want energy efficiency to deliver additional energy savings. Our new Energy Efficiency Strategy for Buildings seeks to highlight avenues that we still need to explore so that we can make Germany’s building stock virtually climate-neutral by 2050.”

The Energy Efficiency Strategy for Buildings brings together a host of existing measures, combining them into a consistent strategy. It also explains how the various measures are to be updated and sets out additional ones that could be introduced. The idea behind all these policies is to enable consumers to conserve energy and thus contribute to the energy transition. Let’s take a look at some of these measures:

  • If you want to build an energy-efficient house or have work done to make a house more energy-efficient, you will be eligible for some attractive funding by KfW. The German government has just increased the funding envelope for the relevant programmes quite considerably, as well as widened their scope. The CO2 Building Modernisation Programme is a good example: every year, up until 2018, there are now 2 billion euros available under this programme.

  • In the future, individual roadmaps are to be drawn up for specific buildings undergoing modernisation. This means that the work to be undertaken in a given building is to be organised into various steps to be undertaken one after another over several years, rather than being carried out in a non-coordinated manner. This will render the overall process more efficient.

  • The government has revisited its Market Incentive Programme for renewable energy (MAP) to make it even more effective in helping home owners to swap their old heating system for a new one fuelled by solar energy, biomass or thermal energy.

Similarly, Germany’s legislation on energy conservation is being brought into line with the efficiency targets adopted as part of the energy transition. For instance, it lays down minimum efficiency standards for new buildings and stipulates that buildings should correspond to the state-of-the-art of energy efficiency.

Helps save our climate, helps save your cash

There are a great many reasons why it is worthwhile making your home more energy-efficient and switching to systems that rely on renewables. Among these are cost savings, a cosier home, higher property values, old-age provisions, and the chance to help mitigate climate change. The Federal Ministry for Economic Affairs and Energy helps home owners achieve this. If you decide to, say, swap your old heating system for a new one powered by green energy, you are eligible for a government cash grant.

Efficiency label names and shames inefficient boilers

The next important step towards greater energy efficiency is about to be taken in January 2016, when a new efficiency label will be phased in for all boilers in Germany that are more than 15 years old. More than 70 per cent of boilers installed in Germany use more energy than would be necessary.
Federal Minister for Economic Affairs Sigmar Gabriel said: “The label will be familiar to consumers because it is also used for household appliances, and it should help them gain a quick and easy idea of the state in which their old boiler is. This should motivate consumers to make use of the energy-advice services available and consider swapping their old boiler for a new one.”

Consumers will not have to do anything to ensure their boiler is fitted with an efficiency label. This will be taken care of by the heating engineers, chimney sweeps, or energy advisers. Both the label itself and the information dispensed about the boiler come free of charge.