We wish you an energy-efficient Christmas

Enhancing energy efficiency – how far have we come, a year into our National Action Plan for Energy Efficiency?

Christmas tree with christmas lights in a snowy forest.© BMWi; istockphoto/imtmphoto

Do you like to indulge in a festive roast at Christmas, served in your brightly lit living room? If the answer is yes, you may also know that many Germans use up to a third more electricity over the festive season compared to average days in winter. That’s no reason to feel guilty, but it is a reason to think about how we can use energy in an intelligent way, without making sacrifices.

For more than a year now, Germany has embarked on a road towards greater energy performance. As it makes progress on this road, the country is guided by the National Action Plan on Energy Efficiency (NAPE), which was adopted by the Federal Government in December 2014. How far have we come since then? What will be the next steps we take? And most interestingly, how can consumers benefit from this development? It’s time to take stock.

Energy consumption at a record low

The National Action Plan on Energy Efficiency is all about making us ready to achieve our most important target: By 2050, Germany wants to have cut its energy consumption to half the figure of 2008. Twenty per cent of this reduction is to be reached by 2020. And a great deal has already been achieved. Last year alone, Germany’s energy consumption fell by 4.7 per cent year-on-year, to its lowest level since 1990. Whilst it is true that much of this reduction can be attributed to the mild weather we had in 2014, better energy efficiency also had a role to play.

Everyone can do their bit

We want Germany to make even greater strides as it continues to improve its energy performance. The National Action Plan on Energy Efficiency therefore sets out a number of measures that will promote energy efficiency within various time frames. Some of the measures will take a while to deliver results, others should have an immediate effect. More than half of the measures that are to have an instant effect and which fall within the remit of the Federal Ministry for Economic Affairs and Energy have already been launched.

They are aimed at private households, companies, municipalities and non-for-profit organisations. The bottom line here is: when it comes to enhancing energy efficiency, everyone can help. After all, nothing could be more energy-efficient than to reduce the amount of electricity that has to be generated in the first place. Bringing down our power consumption is not only good for the climate, but also good for our finances.

Save the climate, save your cash

Many measures introduced under the National Action Plan on Energy Efficiency are designed to help consumers save real money over the long term. Home owners are amongst the biggest winners. New rules introduced this year have eased the financial burden on home owners who want to make their house more energy-efficient. The government has made another 200 million euros available under its CO2 Building Modernisation Programme, bringing the annual financial envelope of this programme up to 2 billion euros until 2018. Furthermore, the conditions for funding have also been rendered even more attractive. This applies to loans and grants provided under the KfW Energy-Efficient Modernisation programme, for instance. Loans for KfW Efficiency Houses can now be as high as 100,000 euros, up from the previous 75,000. Furthermore, it is possible for home owners who don’t want to modernise their entire building to receive repayment grants for individual measures that render their property more energy-efficient. These stronger incentives are clearly having an effect: the number of applications for funding approved so far this year is 17 per cent higher than last year’s figure.

Moreover, thanks to the new KfW programme for energy efficiency retrofits and the construction of energy efficient commercial buildings, funding is no longer restricted to residential buildings Since the launch of the programme this July, it has been used to leverage an overall investment volume of close to a billion euros.

Use the sun to heat your home in winter

Renewables are now Germany’s number-one source of electricity. But when it comes to heating and hot-water supply, they still have a lot of catching-up to do. This is supposed to change, not least thanks to the market incentive programme for the use of renewable energy in the heating market, which was overhauled this year. Funding is now more widely available, including for additional innovative technologies.

Whether you go for solar, biomass, or biothermal energy, the investment will pay off. That’s what many consumers who have received funding are telling us. One of them is Eckhard Fehling from Bernau, a town near Berlin. He says: “I knew that if I was to have a new heating system installed, it would have to be an environmentally-friendly one.” He decided to invest in a heating system that uses solar thermal energy and saves him some 900 euros every year. The new system didn’t come cheap, however, which made the 2,000 euros in funding provided under the market inventive programme all the more welcome. The rise in applications shows that an increasing number of private households and companies are following his lead.

Good advice pays off very quickly

There are, of course, many ways in which we can conserve energy. To help you find the ones that are best for you, the German government has created new consultancy services. The system of on-site energy audits was further reinforced in March this year, and adjusted to better reflect home owners’ needs. The government provides up to 800 euros in grants for an energy audit of a one-family or two-family home, and up to 1,100 euros for a multi-family house. Condominium owners also receive better support, including an additional one-off grant of 500 euros provided that the report detailing the results of the energy audit is presented to the assembly of condominium owners.

People are making use of these opportunities in ever greater numbers. Demand for on-site energy audits has risen year-on-year, with approx. 10,000 house owners conducting the new type of energy audit in 2015.

Energy-efficiency on sale

You don’t need to be a home owner to conserve energy. Everyone who uses electric devices can play their part. If you’ve been to an appliance store any time in the recent past, you will be familiar with the colourful labels that can be found on packaging. These energy-efficiency labels were introduced by the EU to help consumers see at first glance which refrigerators, TV sets and other appliances are energy-efficient, and which ones waste energy. Other products such as water heaters and heating appliances have only recently been labelled. For further information on the energy performance of products, please click here.

As of January, a new national energy-efficiency label will be introduced for heating installations fitted more than 15 years ago. Across Germany, there are 13 million of these old heating systems. Most of them are extremely inefficient and ought to be replaced by more modern systems with a better energy performance. For further information on the National Action Plan on Energy Efficiency and the benefits it brings to consumers, please click here.

For companies: Energy efficiency – crucial for success

The changes introduced this year have also made it easier for businesses to increase their energy performance. Those that decide to go down this route stand to benefit it more than one way: first of all, they can lower their energy bills and hone their competitive edge. Second, they will lower their carbon emissions, which will help the climate and put the company’s business model on a sound and sustainable footing.

The new Initiative for Energy-Efficiency Networks, an alliance formed by the German government and the private sector, is providing companies with additional support. It is designed to allow companies to exchange best practices linked to energy efficiency, and to develop new ones. The firms that have already joined a network have found that they’ve made the right decision. Being part of a network makes it possible for them to gain a better understanding of the areas in which they could increase their energy performance, and of how this can be done. It makes the workforce and management passionate about energy efficiency, fosters investments that have a high return, and is also good for the climate and for energy security. This year, a total of 25 networks have been formed. By 2020, this number is to rise to 200.

The new energy-efficiency networks are also open to municipalities, which stand to gain a great deal from this dialogue. Not least, because it will make it easier for them to modernise their building stock to make it more energy-efficient.

An energy-efficient start to the new year

So what can we expect to happen next year? Well, among other things, there is the new incentive programme for energy efficiency, which will be launched at the beginning of the new year. It is designed to encourage home owners to replace their old and inefficient boilers with new and efficient ones, and to upgrade the overall heating system (heat distribution, pipes, radiators etc.). Doing both at once (swapping the boiler for a new one and overhauling the entire system) has a double benefit. The new installation will be well-integrated and fine-tuned, and this will be rewarded with more funding than would be made available if the individual measures were to be taken separately.
Other novelties planned for 2016 include the introduction of competitive auctions for efficiency technologies. Furthermore, a “national top-runner initiative” is to help products that are outstandingly energy-efficient to be brought to the market more quickly. Top runners are products that are already highly energy-efficient.

But this is by no means where the list ends. For further information on energy efficiency and all the measures that are in the pipeline, in the process of implementation, or that have already been introduced, please click here.