For a long time energy efficiency was a sleeping giant – huge energy-saving potential which is not being used. More focus is now being placed on energy efficiency thanks to the energy transition, climate protection and rising energy prices. Against this background, the German government developed and published the National Action Plan on Energy Efficiency (NAPE) at the end of 2014.
The NAPE is aimed at giving energy efficiency a strategy and targeted support. What does this strategy cover and what progress has been made in implementing it almost one-and-a-half years later? The Action Plan is designed to create general conditions and incentives in order to harness existing potential for increasing energy efficiency as cheaply as possible. After all, the most environmentally friendly and lowest-cost energy is the energy we do not need to use. The NAPE affects a wide variety of sectors: from private households and buildings to industry. The objectives of the individual measures are geared to the overall target of the German government to cut primary energy consumption by 20% by 2020 and by 50% by 2050.
Current status of the NAPE and its implementation
The major elements of the NAPE are the following short-term measures which have yet to be implemented, have already been implemented or have failed in their implementation:
- One of the major components was the tax incentives for energy-efficiency building renovation which failed because of the federal states’ resistance to their financing.
- The further development of the CO2 building renovation programme came into force at the start of 2016 with new combination solutions, e.g. for heating system refurbishment.
- A competitive tendering scheme for energy efficiency in the electricity sector is to be introduced in the first half of 2016.
- The promotion of energy conservation contracting and the further development of the energy efficiency programmes of Kreditanstalt für Wiederaufbau (KfW) have already been implemented.
- The Energy Efficiency Networks Initiative is slowly getting off the ground but needs to speed up if the target of 500 energy efficiency networks by 2020 is to be reached.
- A top-runner strategy for the most efficient electrical appliances at national and EU level is still being developed and a time for its implementation has not yet been set.
- The energy audit obligation for non-SMEs (small and medium-sized enterprises) has applied since December 5, 2015.
- The national energy efficiency label for old heating systems has existed on a voluntary basis since the start of 2016.
(Source: NAPE meter of DENEFF)
It remains to be seen whether the objective of the energy efficiency savings will be achieved
In 2016, the German government is planning to tackle more issues; for example, the Energy Saving Law for buildings is to be pushed forward and the Renewable Energies Heat Law (EEWärmeG) and the Energy Conservation Regulations (EnEV) are to be better harmonised or combined.
According to the analysis of Deutsche Unternehmensinitiative Energieeffizienz e.V. (DENEFF) dated March 24, 2016, two-thirds of the NAPE projects have therefore already been launched. In spite of this success, the association is still sceptical about whether the planned savings will be achieved. The discontinuation of the tax incentives for renovation work has created a major gap in the Action Plan which cannot be completely filled by other measures. Industry’s contribution with the energy efficiency networks is making only slow progress and the success of competitive tendering, which is limited to the electricity sector, is uncertain.
Outlook for the future of the energy efficiency policy
Despite all this scepticism, the progress achieved in energy efficiency is tremendous. Whereas energy efficiency used to be viewed in isolation and left up to other players such as the EU, a strategy is now in place. Whether it will bear fruit – with appreciable success in reducing primary energy consumption – has yet to be seen.
The NAPE is just the start of a lengthy process for a targeted analysis of energy efficiency in energy policy. The entire process, which was initiated with the Action Plan, is to be updated in a green paper process and may culminate in an energy efficiency law.
Energy efficiency is on the way to becoming an integral component of energy policy.
There are other topics for the future which can be included in this energy efficiency strategy process. Top of the list is the energy-saving potential offered by the extensive digitisation of energy management, for example in the building sector or in industry. The “Efficiency First” principle introduced by EU Energy Commissioner, Miguel Arias Canete, may also lead to greater importance being attached to the subject of energy efficiency. This principle gives priority to efficiency measures when they are cheaper than the creation of new generation capacities or infrastructure.
Energy efficiency is now on the way to becoming an integral component of energy policy – as a second mainstay of the energy transition. However, this policy will soon have to be judged by its effects. Can the desired savings really be achieved?