Climate protection and energy efficiency potentials in the wastewater sector (KlimAW)

The wastewater sector is usually the single biggest energy consumer in a municipal context. At the same time, usable energy in the form of gas, electricity or heat is generated at wastewater treatment plants, so it could also be a component of the regional energy system. In the context of the Climate Action Plan 2050 with its far-reaching climate and energy policy objectives, the wastewater sector is therefore an important municipal field of action.

The primary objective of the research project is to determine the contribution that the wastewater sector could make to achieving the climate targets. The aim is to identify adaptation requirements with regard to a consistent optimization of wastewater treatment plants and their integration into the energy system and reveal factors hindering implementation.

The project was sucessfully completed, the final report (English summary see pp. 26 to 33) can be downloaded here.

The work in KlimAW is divided into two core topics:

  • Core topic 1 includes the evaluation of technical options in the wastewater sector to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by substituting fossil energy sources in the areas of power, heat and mobility. The analyses are done for three scenarios and include an estimation of the funding requirements and a description of the energy market requirements. The scenarios comprise a status quo scenario, which describes today’s situation; a benchmark scenario, which depicts optimization potentials that are already possible but often not realized in today’s system; and an innovative scenario, in which wastewater treatment plants contribute to the provision of balancing energy in the region in the sense of a systemic transition, and perform tasks in the energy system that go beyond their core function.
  • Core topic 2 examines relevant research projects and analyzes drivers and obstacles, describes legal and regulatory framework conditions including the identification of adaptation requirements and an analysis of the possible risks for plant operators.

In the sense of improving the integration of the wastewater sector into the energy system, interactions with the energy market, its requirements and the relevant framework conditions are always considered in the questions.

The project should provide pointers on how wastewater treatment plants can be practically integrated into the energy system. Among other things, an overview will be compiled, e.g. in the form of a database, which presents the technical options with their potentials, the relevant legal standards and the necessary adaptation requirements.


15.10.2018 - 15.04.2020


  • Umweltbundesamt - FKZ: UFOPLAN 3718 41 3260


  • Wupperverbandsgesellschaft für integrale Wasserwirtschaft mbH
  • IKEM – Institut für Klimaschutz, Energie und Mobilität e. V.
Wupperverbandsgesellschaft für integrale Wasserwirtschaft mbH
IKEM – Institut für Klimaschutz, Energie und Mobilität e. V.