© Unsplash/Gabor Molnar

Energy efficiency in buildings: the key to climate protection

The success of the major energy transition project will be evaluated over the years ahead. The key to this, alongside the area of renewable energies and network development, is in particular an increase in energy efficiency in the buildings sector, the largest energy consumer in Germany and the EU: it accounts for 40 % of primary energy consumption.

The energy transition that has been decided in Germany faces the Federal Government with one of the largest economic policy challenges since the Second World War. Our prosperity and social justice in Germany depend to a large extent on its successful implementation. From the end consumer through to companies, virtually all groups in society are directly affected by the success of this major project. We expressly support the decision for an energy transition in Germany, but we call for professional implementation so that jobs, economic growth and social well-being are ensured and promoted. At the same time, the energy transition offers our country large opportunities – also for German business. However, these can only be used consistently if the overall project is professionally managed and implemented.

The Federal Government has set itself the objective of addressing the reorientation of German energy and climate policy as rapidly as possible. The new rules for promoting renewable energies – specifically amendment of Germany’s renewable energy law – proposed in January 2014 were adopted in the Federal Cabinet in April 2014. But alongside the question of electricity generation and distribution, we also see an urgent need for action above all in one other area: that of energy efficiency – especially in buildings.

The objective formulated repeatedly since the energy concept in 2010, most recently in the Christian Democrat/Social Democrat Coalition Agreement, of making an increase in energy efficiency the “second pillar of the energy transition” has not so far been followed by any decisive political steps. In this regard, the objectives set out in the energy concept (an 80% reduction in primary energy consumption by 2050) are highly ambitious and cannot be achieved without flanking with attractive framework conditions. We expressly welcome the establishment of the Federal Economic Affairs and Energy Ministry’s energy transition platforms, but these are useless if once again no political measures follow.

It is difficult to understand why the Federal Government has not presented any coordinated and coherent overall concept for energy efficiency which gives equal consideration to all relevant sectors. The existing climate and energy policy challenges can only be managed with viable concepts in the buildings sector. As the largest emitter, this sector indisputably offers large opportunities for cutting greenhouse gas emissions and hence can make an important contribution to achieving the climate protection objectives. We call for the buildings sector to be brought into greater focus in the framework of ongoing political activities.

In this regard, it must be borne in mind that – by contrast with many other countries – Germany’s energy supply in the heating market rests on a broadly based energy mix and consists of established grid-dependent and grid-independent hearing supply structures. Renewable energies as well as conventional energy sources such as natural gas and heating oil are represented in this energy mix.

What is now necessary in energy policy is to increase efficiency in the use of the entire energy mix offer with technology openness and energy source neutrality, and correspondingly also to design incentive instruments in order to be able to improve climate and resource protection effectively at all.

Looking at the current situation, an increase in energy efficiency in the operation of buildings constitutes one of the central challenges for implementation of the energy transition decisions.

The necessary technological solutions for an energy consumption rationalisation in residential and non-residential buildings are already available today, without any loss of comfort or productivity for building users. It is now important also to put in place the corresponding incentives and framework for these solutions to be deployed across the board and trigger the necessary wave of rationalisation so that the energy consumption quota increases from less than 1% at the present time to at least 2%.