Climate protection in the building sector

Poorly insulated homes and outdated heating systems are still contributing to the high relevance of the building sector with regard to greenhouse gas (GHG) mitigation. Around 35 per cent of Germany’s final energy demand in 2012 stemmed from the production of space heating and hot water in residential and non-residential buildings. This is to change by 2050 – the goal of the German government is for Germany’s buildings to have a very low energy demand and for this demand to be predominantly met by renewable energies. To this end, the energy demand for heating and cooling in existing buildings must be reduced substantially and more renewable sources must be used to meet the remaining energy demand. Changes in user behaviour can also make a large contribution to the reduction of GHG emissions in this sector.

The EU has bound its member states to increase energy efficiency in the building sector. In accordance with the EU’s Energy Performance of Buildings Directive (EPBD), which was transposed into national law in Germany by the Energy Saving Ordinance (Energieeinsparverordnung), all new buildings in the member states must be so-called nearly zero energy buildings from 2021 onwards. The number of nearly zero energy buildings among existing houses is also to increase. In addition, the EU Energy Efficiency Directive (EED) obliges member states to develop a long-term strategy for increasing investments in the energy rehabilitation of buildings.

Oeko Institut is contributing to the development of effective climate measures for the building sector in Germany and the EU in a number of projects.

Entranze – more building efficiency in the EU

The goal of the European Entranze project, which was completed in September 2014, was to actively support policy-makers in the development of policy instruments for increasing building efficiency. The consortium of ten research institutes, including Oeko Institut, carried out a comprehensive analysis of the European building stock, examined the behaviour of the owners and the acceptance of different technologies and determined the most cost-effective energy rehabilitation options. On this basis the effect of energy rehabilitation instruments was estimated for nine EU member states and the EU as a whole up to 2030; then policy recommendations were elaborated for the member states and the EU. One of the prominent elements of the project was the in-depth communication with policy-makers and experts in each of the member states concerned. The project results, reports and instruments described therein are all valuable tools for policy makers in the EU member states as well as the EU Commission and can be used to improve the energy performance of the building stock.

Further information on the Entranze project can be found on the project website and in Oeko Institut's press release "Research for more climate protection in buildings" (December 2014)

Legal instruments for more building efficiency in Germany

In a report completed in May 2013, the researchers analysed which legally viable and effective instruments induce building owners to rehabilitate their buildings and which legal barriers stand in the way. Included in the possible measures that should be possible without increasing the burden on public budgets is, among others, the introduction of a climate protection levy, which would be paid by owners based on the energy performance of their buildings or the increase of energy tax rates for fossil fuels, which could be used as a source of reciprocal financing for the German KfW support scheme. In addition, another finding of the report was that architects and engineers could receive a statutory bonus for increasing energy efficiency.

More results and detailed information can be found in the German-language report "Concepts for removing legal barriers in the building sector".

Behaviour-based energy-saving potentials in residential buildings in Germany

In one of Oeko Institut’s ongoing projects, the main question addressed is how much energy households could save in different areas – e.g. housing-related behaviour, mobility, food – by means of certain behaviour-related measures. By changing one’s behaviour – e.g. having smaller apartments, using less heating and having shorter showers – everyone can help to reduce the energy consumption of the sector. Alongside the energy saving potentials, policy instruments that can contribute to users changing their behaviour are also analysed within the scope of the project.

A short description of the project can be found on Oeko Institut's website.

Policy needs to provide more incentives

In order to meet the EU’s 20-20-20 target (a 20% reduction in EU greenhouse gas emissions from 1990 levels, raising the share of EU energy consumption produced from renewable resources to 20%, a 20% improvement in the EU's energy efficiency) by 2020, the member states have an important role to play as regulators. In Oeko Institut’s view, the efforts made up to now on both EU and national level are not yet sufficient to bring about a significant improvement in the energy performance of buildings.

Ambitious and targeted strategies are needed to increase the number of energy rehabilitations of buildings, to improve their quality and to use more renewable energy in the building sector. It is not enough to focus on new buildings; there should also be a focus on the transformation of the existing building stock. An essential prerequisite for this is the setting of binding and ambitious long-term targets up to 2050 and interim targets for emission reductions in the building sector. The strategies should contain comprehensive, targeted packages of instruments whose implementation and achievement of objectives is regularly reviewed.