Germans are heating more but still saving


The Germans are heating more but still saving. That is the conclusion of the “Heat Monitor”, a study that the German Institute for Economic Research (DIW Berlin) publishes once a year with ista's support.

Heat consumption in Germany

On the basis of the heat consumption of more than 300,000 multi-family buildings, the researchers calculate where in Germany how much heating is used and what the costs are for each home. In 2016, heating energy was most expensive in Hamburg, costing 7.81 eurocents/kilowatt hour. At 4.85 eurocents/kilowatt hour, it was cheapest to heat in the Allgäu.

Cost of heating falling

Overall the cost of heating, what the Germans call the “second rent”, fell nationwide by six per cent. “Households now only have to pay two-thirds of what they did in 2008 for space heating,” explains DIW economist Claus Michelsen. The researchers believe that the main reason for this is the current low cost of energy, with oil and gas prices falling by an average of eight per cent. At the same time, however, households heated more in 2016. So household heating energy demand increased by two per cent in 2016 compared with the previous year. Households are therefore not benefitting from lower energy consumption, but from lower prices.

Heat consumption is rising while costs are falling thanks to low prices.

Be well prepared and save energy

It goes without saying that the situation can change very quickly again and oil and gas prices could rise again. Therefore, the researchers are also warning against abandoning energy-saving measures now. In the past years many buildings in Germany have been thermally insulated, and, according to DIW, this work should continue. On the one hand, to further advance climate protection and, on the other hand, to continue keeping energy consumption and heating costs under control in future.

It’s all about the right mixture

However, the result of the Heat Monitor study also shows how important user behaviour is when it comes to saving energy. The more efficiently a resident manages his own energy consumption, the more he himself can contribute to saving energy and cutting CO2 emissions. On average, a household needs 85 per cent of its energy consumption for heating. Even small changes in user behaviour can make a positive contribution to climate protection.

Heat Monitor 2016: Change compared with previous year in per cent.

But the opposite also happens. After costly modernisation the so-called rebound effect sometimes occurs: residents heat more, particularly because they think that they do not have to worry so much about their consumption behaviour because of the thermal insulation work. To ensure this does not happen, consumers need their consumption to be transparent. The reasoning is quite simple: people who know how much energy they are using watch their consumption more and therefore have been proved to save on average both energy and costs. So Thomas Zinnöcker, CEO of ista, recommends a “combination of energy-efficient buildings and optimised user behaviour” in order to sustainably reduce heating costs. “The basis for both is transparent consumption. Here it is all about finding well-balanced solutions that take account of the interests of investors, landlords and tenants and offer sustainable but also affordable climate protection.”