Energy Conservation Legislation; Source: iStock.com/therry

© iStock.com/therry

Energy Conservation Act

The Energy Conservation Act and Energy Conservation Ordinance are essential instruments in the German Federal Government's energy efficiency policy. The continuous further development of the energy efficiency requirements specified for buildings, informed as they are by the state of the art of technology and a concern with cost efficiency, is making important contributions to energy conservation and therefore helping to lessen Germany's dependence on imports, strengthen security of supply and, indirectly, protect the world's climate as well.

The Fourth Act amending the Energy Conservation Act was published in the German Federal Law Gazette on 4 July 2013. The Act entered into force on 13 July 2013 and forms the basis of the Energy Conservation Ordinance which was amended in the same year.

Furthermore, apart from implementing the decisions taken by the German Federal Government on its Energy Concept and the energy transition, the amended Energy Conservation Act (and Energy Conservation Ordinance) transpose the provisions of Directive 2010/31/EU of the European Parliament and the Council on the energy performance of buildings (PDF: 861 KB).

The new Energy Conservation Act serves firstly to create the legal basis for amending the Energy Conservation Ordinance. Secondly, it introduces the obligation for new buildings to be constructed as nearly zero-energy buildings. This obligation will apply to all new public buildings from 1 January 2019 and to all other new buildings from 1 January 2021. A provision in the Energy Conservation Ordinance defining the standard for nearly zero-energy buildings is still required. The deadline for providing this definition is 31 December 2016.

At the request of the German Bundestag (parliament), the existing obligation to shut off night storage heaters is also being repealed. The reason for doing so, as stated by the Bundestag, is to harness the potential of these heaters as local storage facilities within the framework of the energy transition.

Energy Conservation Ordinance

The Energy Conservation Ordinance 2014 entered into force on 1 May 2014. The key amendments are as follows:

  • Higher efficiency standards are to be applied to new buildings: from 1 January 2016, new buildings require a reduction of approximately 25 per cent in terms of primary energy consumption and around 20 per cent in terms of heat transfer loss (the latter one reflecting the thermal insulation of the building shell).
  • Building stock: no tightening of the requirements to external components of existing buildings in the event of their replacement. Tightened requirements apply to just two special cases which are of minor relevance (replacement of shop windows and external doors). These are brought into line with the requirements stipulated under Energy Conservation Ordinance 2009.
  • Introduction of the obligation to disclose key energy figures in real estate advertisements when selling and renting properties.
  • Clarification of the existing obligation to present the energy performance certificate to potential buyers and tenants (energy performance certificate must be made available to a potential buyer or tenant at the viewing stage).
  • Introduction of the obligation to hand over the energy certificate to the buyer or new tenant.
  • Extension to smaller buildings of the existing duty to display energy performance certificates in buildings used by public authorities and frequently visited by the public.
  • Introduction of the obligation to display energy performance certificates in certain buildings which are frequently visited by the public, but which are not occupied by public authorities.
  • Introduction of an independent system for spot checks of energy performance certificates and reports on the inspection of air conditioning systems.
  • Recording of efficiency classes in energy performance certificates for residential buildings as well as the obligation to provide notification in real estate advertisements when selling and letting property.
  • Obligation to decommission constant temperature boilers installed before 1 January 1985 or which have been in service for more than 30 years (previous qualifying date of 1 January 1978; boilers in certain one and two-family dwellings occupied by the owner continue to be excluded from this regulation).

Failure to comply with some of the new obligations will result in a fine.

The amended versions of the Energy Conservation Ordinance and Energy Conservation Act were prepared on the basis of extensive scientific studies published on the website of the Federal Institute for Research on Building, Urban Affairs and Spatial Development (BBSR). Further information is also available on the Energy Conservation Ordinance topic portal (only in German).

The Energy Conservation Ordinance will also continue to be developed further in 2016 in order to introduce the nearly zero-energy standard for new buildings - from 2021 for private buildings and from 2019 for public buildings - pursuant to the corresponding EU Energy Performance of Buildings Directive. Further information can be found in the National Action Plan on Energy Efficiency (NAPE), which the German Federal Government adopted on 3 December 2014.

Renewable Energies Heat Act

The aim of the Renewable Energies Heat Act is to help increase the share of renewable energies in the heat sector to 14 per cent by 2020. The Act stipulates an obligation to use renewable energies in new buildings and - in the case of public sector buildings - also when carrying out major renovations. The Renewable Energies Heat Act is therefore a key component in the system of promoting renewable energies.

As part of the National Action Plan on Energy Efficiency (NAPE), the Renewable Energies Heat Act and Energy Conservation Ordinance are to be reconciled. A review is to be carried out of instances where the legislation overlaps and where it could potentially be simplified, the primary aim being to improve the integration of renewable energies into heat provision for buildings. The possibility of amalgamating the Renewable Energies Heat Act and Energy Conservation Ordinance is being examined.

Further information on the Renewable Energies Heat Act, funding conditions and accompanying funding measures can be found here (only in German).

Heating Cost Ordinance

The ordinance governing the consumption-based billing of heat and hot water costs (Heating Cost Ordinance; first adopted in 1981) governs the allocation of costs for heating and hot water production in centrally supplied buildings with two or more units. It also regulates the obligation to carry out metering as well as the fitting of technical equipment for metering. Residential buildings consisting of just two dwellings, one of which is occupied by the owner himself, are not covered by the ordinance.

The aim of the ordinance is to encourage users to save energy by making a considerable share of the costs to be billed dependent on the user's level of consumption. In this respect, it takes priority over any other regulations set out in tenancy agreements.

Since 1 January 2009, the applicable law has been the version dating from 5 October 2009, which is based on the amending ordinance of 2 December 2008. The main changes compared to the previous version (Heating Cost Ordinance 1989) concerned the provisions under Section 7 (Cost Allocation for the Supply of Heat) and Section 9 (Cost Allocation for the Supply of Heat and Hot Water in Combined Systems). An exemption from the obligation to carry out metering also acts as an incentive to attain the passive house standard in the construction of new buildings or the refurbishment of multiple-family dwellings.

The adoption of the EU Energy Efficiency Directive (EED) 2012/27/EU of the European Parliament and of the Council of 25 October 2012 has established a metering and cost allocation system at European level as well. From the perspective of the German Federal Government, this has not resulted in the need for additional legislation in relation to the Heating Cost Ordinance.

The Federal Government has gone beyond the requirements of the Directive in commissioning a study into the contribution made to further energy saving by regular information provided during the year on consumption and billing in the areas of cooling, heating and hot water. In this regard, it should be noted that the provision regarding cost efficiency generally applies in the case of the Energy Conservation Act. This means that the costs incurred by citizens due to the implementation of regulatory requirements must, as a minimum, be neutralised by the resulting savings in energy costs. The study has shown that the provision of information on cooling, heating and hot water use during the year, together with the billing hereof, is - in every respect - not cost efficient at present (Oschatz study, 2014).

The National Action Plan on Energy Efficiency (NAPE) presents potential future options for developing the provisions of the Heating Cost Ordinance further.

Further information is available from the Federal Institute for Research on Building, Urban Affairs and Spatial Development (www.bbsr.bund.de) and on the BBSR Info Portal.