Energy efficiency progress: Germany only ranks in the middle in the EU despite high levels of energy efficiency and policy

April 21, 2015

Germany was elected “world champion“ in an international comparison of the sixteen largest economies by the American think tank ACEEE only last year in 2014. Now, although Germany is still at the front with regard to the current status of energy efficiency, its efficiency progress is clearly lagging behind the other EU Member States. This is the result of studies conducted for the European Commission (Intelligent Energy Europe Program) by the Fraunhofer Institute for Systems and Innovation Research ISI as part of the European project Odyssee-MURE and jointly presented to the public together with the German Industry Initiative for Energy Efficiency DENEFF. Its energy efficiency policy is certified a good third place.

Germany’s role as a model for energy efficiency was considered undisputable in German federal policy. However, detailed studies of the Fraunhofer ISI that were presented at the Fraunhofer Forum’s press conference in Berlin this week show that: Germany is still in fourth place regarding the status of energy efficiency, but other European countries are now at the forefront with regard to efficiency progress – among them, Great Britain, the Netherlands and several central and eastern European Member States. It is true that the starting level of many of these countries was much lower and their need to catch-up was much higher, but Germany would need an annual improvement of 2 percent per year for its Energiewende to succeed rather than the one percent achieved on average so far. Here, Germany’s performance is below the EU average of 1.3 percent and the country ranks 18th.

Germany’s position varies depending on the sector regarded: it is in 14th place for energy efficiency progress in the household sector, in 24th place for the manufacturing industry and in 5th place for the transport sector.

In contrast, Germany scores highly when characterizing the energy efficiency policy to date and is in 3rd place behind Bulgaria and Croatia.

The current results are based on ODEX, the energy efficiency index developed in the EU ODYSSEE-MURE project, in which the Fraunhofer ISI plays a crucial role. This comprehensive and specific instrument used to measure energy efficiency progress in the EU and its Member States makes it possible to rank the energy efficiency of EU countries. ODEX aggregates the efficiency gains in the different sectors into an overall indicator.

Especially in industry, the development in Germany over the last 15 years has been characterized more by structural shifts to less energy-intensive industries than by efficiency gains such as the energy-based renovation of buildings and industrial installations. “Economic potentials do exist for further improvements to energy efficiency,“ says Dr. Wolfgang Eichhammer, Head of the Competence Center Energy Policy and Energy Markets at the Fraunhofer ISI: “Energy demand could be reduced by 25 percent by 2030 compared to today’s level. This is also essential if primary energy demand is to be halved by the middle of the century, as demanded by the German government’s energy concept. This will require substantial further policy efforts.“

Steven Nadel, Director of the American Council for an Energy Efficient Economy ACEEE, whose international score card gave Germany top place last summer, also concedes that: “Germany is in a good position with regard to energy efficiency, especially when compared to other countries around the world. In total, however, it only achieved 65 out of 100 possible points, even if other countries scored even worse. There is a clear potential for improvement here if we want to advance Germany’s economy in terms of energy efficiency.“

So it is even more important that the policy plans made in the National Action Plan for Energy Efficiency (NAPE) at the end of December 2014 are implemented quickly – from the viewpoint of both scientists and German enterprises that are well placed as suppliers of energy efficiency products and services. Christian Noll, managing director of the German Industry Initiative for Energy Efficiency (DENEFF): “Germany stands to profit enormously as a global competitor from consistently implementing the planned energy efficiency projects – both as an energy consumer and a supplier of energy efficiency solutions. For us to become the energy efficiency world champion again and retain the title in the long term, we need much more planning security and a top political priority for energy efficiency.“

These and similar topics are also being addressed in several presentations at the 3. Fraunhofer Energietagen that take place this year under the heading “Energiewende in Germany’s industry“.

The Fraunhofer Institute for Systems and Innovation Research ISI analyzes the origins and impacts of innovations. We research the short- and long-term developments of innovation processes and the impacts of new technologies and services on society. On this basis, we are able to provide our clients from industry, politics and science with recommendations for action and perspectives for key decisions. Our expertise is founded on our scientific competence as well as an interdisciplinary and systemic research approach.