Better for the climate, easier on the wallet

Doing more to make more from energy: the Federal Ministry for Economic Affairs and Energy launches two new funding programmes.

Woman kissing a piggybank©

Use less energy and you’ll save money. This is not only true for the household heating bill, but also for smelting at a steel works. Many people are open for change – not only consumers, but companies as well.

Doing more to save more

According to the Energy Efficiency Index, some 68.5 per cent of companies want to raise their efficiency levels by more than ten per cent. Halfway through 2015, the figure was 20.6 per cent, which means there has been a significant jump. But companies also make short-term investments. They look to save energy wherever they can in order to recuperate the money they have spent as quickly as possible. However, mid-term and long-term energy measures can sometimes bring much greater benefits.

Saving energy is also in fashion at the home. Last year alone, the KfW programmes for energy-efficient construction and retrofitting leveraged investments worth just under 40 billion euros – that's roughly 22 per cent more than in the year before. Nevertheless, many people focus on what is cheaper for now, rather than on saving money in the long run. When something in the home breaks, it is often replaced by a cheaper version. Take for instance an old table lamp, that is then replaced by a less expensive one. Even the cheapest table lamp you can buy will turn out to be more expensive in the long run if it consumes more electricity. So saving energy is one thing, saving money can be another. Navigating these issues is now set to become easier.

Funding measures designed for the long term

The Federal Economic Affairs Ministry has recently launched two new funding programmes that support those projects that bring the most benefit. This is not only good for the climate, but it also helps get most out of government funding.

The STEP-up! pilot programme provides funding for energy conservation projects that only seem worthwhile upon closer inspection. On top of this, the pilot programme for energy savings meters is to help make it easier to develop digital innovations and to use energy conservation as a business model. Both companies and private consumers can benefit from these projects in the long term.

STEP up!: Saving energy in the long term

STEP up! is a project that seeks to utilise electricity efficiency potential and has been designed as a mid to long-range project. The idea is to motivate companies to develop targeted electricity efficiency measures by means of a funding competition. The projects that save the highest number of kilowatt hours for each euro of investment are the ones that receive funding. This is the first time that this approach has been used in Germany. What’s unique is that the companies decide themselves how much funding they need in order to undertake a particular project. The STEP up! programme does not offer fixed amounts of funding.

The higher the amount of energy that is conserved and the lower the level of funding applied for, the better the chances of being awarded support. This approach not only enables energy conservation, but it also helps gets the most out of funding. In addition, using this type of competitive auction allows a higher number of projects to be funded, which also helps to save more energy. It enables us to be efficient at all levels.

In order to enter the competition for funding, the project in question must take at least three years to be amortised and must be continued for at least ten years after that. This means it’s about saving energy in a way that brings the greatest benefits in the long run. For companies, this makes long-term investments more attractive.

The competition is open to any company in Germany – from family-run businesses, to public utilities, to energy service companies, through to industrial firms. The projects to be funded can either be carried out at the company or on behalf of the client.

Pilot programme for energy savings meters

The pilot programme for energy savings meters is to help companies and consumers save money using smart technology. The aim of the new funding programme is to enable energy to be saved in a individualised manner. It is based on the principle that the more electricity, gas or heating a company saves – e.g. by using digital technology – the more funding it can receive. The programme thus enables energy conservation as a business model to be put into practice and put to the test. Energy savings meters can be used in both smart homes and smart buildings and can thus benefit consumers and companies alike.

Energy savings meters enable consumers to better understand their own electricity and hot water use, and thus to take it into their own hands to reduce consumption. They can consult the relevant information using a range of different media, such as via smartphone app, on the computer, or using a tablet. The user interface of the ‘energy savings meter’ acts as a virtual energy advisor, providing households, offices, and factories with customised information about their energy consumption and tips for saving energy based upon this. The energy savings meter thus indicates which appliances are using the most energy and are driving up costs at home or at the workplace – from washing machines, to heating, to televisions sets through to air conditioning units. The information provided enables consumers to adapt their consumption habits in a targeted manner, highlights areas where new, better appliances would be of benefit, and enables them to save electricity and energy more easily – based on their individual situation (appliances and building).

The energy saving meters pilot programme provides businesses and consumers with the greatest possible choice when it comes to ‘how’ they want to cut consumption. It doesn’t matter whether appliances are replaced, discarded, turned off, leased or rented – the main thing is that electricity, gas, or heating is being saved. The more energy that is conserved, the higher the government grant.

Any companies that wish to test out their systems among their customers and make them fit for the market can apply for the funding. Funding can be provided to cover up to half of project costs.

Benefits for companies and consumers

Together, the STEP up! and the energy saving meters pilot programmes ultimately benefit households and businesses alike. Not only do they make long-term company investments even more worthwhile, but they also enable consumers to save energy and money in a way that suits them best.