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Article - Energy Efficiency

Germany makes it efficient


The best and cheapest way of combating climate change is to reduce the amount of electricity that needs to be generated in the first place. This it why it really does ‘pay’ to be energy-efficient, in every sense of the word. In order to make our energy transition a success, we are seeking to become even more efficient in the way we use power and heat.

The objective is to make more out of the energy we use, i.e. to do what we do but to use as little energy as possible to do it. Combined with this, we are also seeking to cover the energy needs that remain through the use of renewables. This is what the German energy transition is all about. Our efforts in these areas have already enabled significant progress to be made. This shows that we are heading in the right direction. From 2008 to 2015, primary energy consumption sank by a respectable 8.3%. The Federal Government wants to see this figure drop by a further 20% by 2020, which means there is still a great deal of work to do. Ultimately, the energy transition will only succeed if we all work together to improve energy performance and reduce our energy consumption.

Energy efficiency benefits all sides – and also saves money

First of all, a better energy performance benefits the climate as it reduces our carbon emissions. It can also save private households, companies and local authorities some real money. It is therefore not surprising that returns on investments in energy efficiency tend to be higherat the moment than returns on secure investments in the capital market.

Using less energy to generate more growth

Improving energy efficiency will also put our companies in a better position to compete globally. Businesses that produce more products using fewer resources and that cut their emissions are able to operate at a lower cost than their rivals. Furthermore, energy efficiency is a driver of new business models and innovative technologies and services that give German businesses an edge over their competitors from abroad.

Figures and facts at a glance

Symbolicon für Wachstumskurve

per cent
The percentage by which Germany’s primary energy consumption is to fall by 2020 (national target)

Symbolicon für Hasuhalt

per cent
The percentage of power consumers save when using appliances rated A+++ compared to ones rated A+.

Symbolicon für Netzwerke

new energy efficiency networks
The number of energy efficiency networks that have already been formed between industry, trade and the skilled crafts.

Symbolicon für Heizen

million heating systems
The number of heating systems currently used in Germany that are more than ten years old – and often very inefficient.

National Action Plan on Energy Efficiency

Saving for a green future

The German government has adopted a National Action Plan on Energy Efficiency (NAPE), a comprehensive package of measures designed to improve the country’s energy performance that is being put in place during this parliament.

Alongside renewables development, improving energy efficiency is also crucial in order to make the energy transition a success. This applies to private households just as much to industrial companies and local authorities. The German Government has in fact set out clear energy efficiency targets. By 2020, Germany is to cut its primary energy consumption by 20% compared to 2008. During the same period, greenhouse gas emissions are to be cut by 40% compared to 1990.

In order to achieve these ambitious targets – part of Germany’s energy concept – existing potential for raising energy efficiency will have to be exploited even more. In order to explore how this might be done, the Federal Ministry for Economic Affairs and Energy launched a public consultation on the Green Paper on Energy Efficiency, which commenced on 12 August 2016. The Paper sets out key questions and points for discussion concerning most important fields of action and the primary challenges that are faced when attempting to reduce energy consumption in the long term. Click here to find out more.

This is how it works: Supplying information – providing support – demanding action

In order to improve their energy performance, citizens, companies and local authorities need to know where there is scope for doing so. The first area of focus within the National Action Plan on Energy Efficiency is therefore on providing information and advice on energy efficiency.

The second is on promoting targeted investment in energy efficiency and on doing so in innovative ways. The scope of the CO2 Building Modernisation Programme (KfW programmes for energy-efficient construction and retrofitting) has been widened and its funding envelope increased. This includes the establishment of a programme designed to prevent and/or use waste heat and the introduction of an auctioning system for energy-efficiency measures. The latter programme is about promoting investments whereby the lowest level of funding leads to the highest possible savings in electricity consumption.

A major principle behind the National Action Plan on Energy Efficiency is that of ‘demanding action’: it is now mandatory for large companies to conduct energy audits. Similarly, new standards apply for new appliances and newly constructed buildings. Furthermore, companies are called upon to become actively involved in one of up to 500 energy-efficiency networks and use these to define and reach joint efficiency targets.

Most of the measures requiring immediate action that have been set out in the National Action Plan on Energy Efficiency have already been successfully implemented. For more information about the National Action Plan on Energy Efficiency, the immediate action taken under the plan, and long-term measures, please click here.

In the spotlight: local authorities, businesses, consumers

The German government’s National Action Plan on Energy Efficiency seeks to encourage all parts of society to use energy more efficiently – whether local authorities, businesses, or consumers. It sees energy efficiency as a challenge to be mastered by society as a whole. Additional information for

Advice and funding

Energy: making more out of less

The Federal Government operates a raft of consulting and funding programmes to help individuals and companies reduce their energy consumption by improving efficiency.

Energy efficiency pays off for consumers, businesses and municipalities alike. Before you invest in improving the energy efficiency of your home or business, having the right information is key. The German government is providing a wide range of different information services and funding programmes.

Energy-efficiency hotline

As part of its ‘Germany makes it efficient’ campaign, the Federal Ministry for Economic Affairs and Energy has launched a freephone service hotline. Individuals and companies can call 0800 0115 000 to learn more about the many programmes Germany has launched to support the move towards greater energy efficiency. For more information and practical tips, please go to (in German).

Services for consumers: initial advice and energy audits

For consumers looking to gain an initial overview and some tips on how to conserve energy, the consumer centres are a good place to start. They offer a wide range of information on their websites, over the phone, and even at your home. The latter includes homeowners and tenants having a specialist come to do an energy audit so that they can learn how they can conserve energy where they live. For further information, please click here.

Energy advice and funding for companies

Like private consumers, companies that invest in energy-efficient machinery and processes also stand to save a great deal of money. SMEs in Germany can benefit from a whole raft of of advisory services and funding programmes that are all tailored to help them improve their energy performance. These include funding for energy management systems, systems to prevent and/or use waste heat, support with investments in energy-efficient and climate-friendly production processes, and support for energy advice for companies. For an overview of all the different programmes available to companies, please click here.

More effective advice and support: the new funding strategy for energy efficiency and heat from renewables

In order to significantly boost the effectiveness of the programmes, the advice and innovation support is being thoroughly reformed in the "Energy efficiency and heat from renewables support strategy". From 2017 to 2019, the support programmes are being gradually restructured, packaged together thematically and targeted at specific audiences. The main focus of the support is on "Energy-efficient buildings", "Energy efficiency in industry and commerce", "Heat infrastructure" and "Saving electricity in private households". Also, a one-stop shop will make it easier for potential beneficiaries to find out which programme suits their needs and to then access this funding. All of the relevant information and step-by-step guidance for interested households and companies will be available from one place. This guidance will range from initial information on energy efficiency through to completion of the modernisation work.

Energy-efficient products and labels

The greener, the more efficient

Energy labelling indicates products’ energy consumption levels and makes it easier for consumers to choose energy-efficient products. This also creates greater competition among manufacturers.

The colour-coded efficiency label introduced by the EU gives consumers better information about products’ energy consumption, helping them choose energy-efficient products.

The underlying EU Directive stipulates that the label is to be used for all products for which energy consumption is a key factor. This applies not only to household appliances, but also products used commercially and products that do not use energy themselves but have a strong impact on the amount of energy consumed elsewhere (i.e. insulated windows). Heating systems and boilers are another important group of products that are now being labelled.

Save energy and money by using highly efficient appliances

The EU energy label is an easy-to-understand guide for consumers. It not only provides information about the efficiency of the respective appliance but – depending on the type of product – also provides information about aspects like the water consumption (in the case of washing machines and dishwashers) and the noise level. In this way, the label helps consumers to compare different appliances. The explanatory film "Das Energielabel – Wegweiser zum Stromsparen im Haushalt" (in German) briefly summaries the key points.

Consumers can find particularly efficient and ecological products in the National Top Runner Initiative’s product finder. Also, information provided by the Initiative guides consumers step by step towards the best appliance for them, and shows them how to use their appliances in a way that saves energy. The information can be found here.

For further information on the energy performance of products, please click here.

2016: National energy-efficiency label for old heating installations

Some 35 per cent of the energy consumed within the building sector in Germany is used for heating and hot water. On 1 January 2016, Germany started to roll out a new efficiency label (PDF: 2 MB) to be used on all boilers that are more than 15 years old. This is to inform consumers about their boiler’s efficiency rating and about the advisory and funding services that are available – and to ultimately encourage them to have a new and more efficient boiler fitted. The labelling is to increase the rate at which older heating systems are being replaced and to persuade consumers to conserve energy. As of 2016, heating technicians, chimney sweeps and certain energy consultants have been licensed to issue the labels. As of 2017, it will be mandatory for district chimney sweeps to do so.

Fuel efficiency labelling for passenger cars

The Ordinance on Energy Consumption Labelling is about providing information on the energy efficiency of passenger cars. Prospective car buyers can go to to find answers to questions including: Which car is the right one for me? Which are the most efficient car models within each class of vehicle? What are the running costs for my dream car? The colour-coded CO2 efficiency scale compares a vehicle's CO2 efficiency to other models. Efficiency rates are calculated from the vehicle’s carbon emissions, taking into account the weight of the vehicle. The scale ranges from 'A+' (very efficient) to 'G' (rather inefficient). The running costs for cars listed in the 'green' efficiency categories A+, A and B are particularly low, thanks to the lower vehicle-tax rate that applies and lower fuel costs.
The website also has some practical tips for car dealers, including how to read the energy-efficiency label for electric cars, and on how to display this information in the showroom. For more information on the passenger-car label, please click here.

European framework

Making energy efficiency a European objective

Conserving energy is one of the key objectives adopted by the European Union. Member States have agreed to cut their primary energy consumption by 20 per cent by 2020 and by at least 27 per cent by 2030. They are currently examining the possibility of raising this target to 30 per cent, something that the German government is advocating.

A key steering instrument at European level is the EU Efficiency Directive (EED).

There is massive potential for better energy conservation across all sectors in Europe. In 2007, the EU member states agreed to cut their primary energy consumption by 20 per cent by 2020. In 2012, the European Union adopted the EU Energy Efficiency Directive (EED), thus taking extensive action to lower Europe’s energy consumption. The EED covers a wide range of areas and stipulates that Member States introduce a number of measures to improve their energy efficiency.

For more information about the transposition of the EU Energy Efficiency Directive (EED), please click here.

Energy Export initiative

Accessing new markets

The Energy Export Initiative provides support for small and medium-sized energy companies in Germany, and helps them access new markets abroad.

The initiative targets companies that provide solutions around renewable energy, energy efficiency, smart grids and energy storage. Why not use this export initiative to boost your company’s exports? For more detailed information about the initiative and its various components and for an events calendar, please click here or visit the Export Initiative website.

Networks and platforms

Joining forces for better energy efficiency

The German government has signed an agreement with various business associations and organisations, introducing energy efficiency networks across all of Germany.

Energy efficiency networks – a platform for companies to share their expertise

The aim behind the networks initiative is to create around 500 new networks by 2020, thereby making an important contribution towards raising energy efficiency performance in industry, the skilled crafts sector, trade, and commerce. Each energy efficiency network has 8 to 15 member companies. Since the initiative was first launched, there has already been a hundred new networks set up, involving more than 1,000 companies and business sites. For more information about energy efficiency network, please click here.

Energy Efficiency Platform

Improving a country’s energy efficiency performance is a task for all of society that can only be shouldered if all the relevant stakeholders are prepared to do their bit. Since 2014, the German government has used the Energy Efficiency Platform to discuss new strategies for better energy efficiency in Germany with all the relevant stakeholders. Within the Platform, there are various working groups that focus on developing various aspects of energy-efficiency policy, including financial aspects, legal aspects, and advice and consulting. For more information about the Energy Efficiency Platform and its working groups, please click here.

Consultation on energy efficiency; Quelle: Ute Grabowsky/Photothek/Getty Images