Zero Carbon Compendium


'The 2009 revision of Germany's EnEV (Energy Conservation Regulations) is one of the most stringent codes in the world and includes a commitment to meet 15% heating, hot water or cooling energy demand from renewables'

Key Facts

Country Population:81.4 m
Capital Population:3.4 m
Area:349, 223 km²
Density:234 people/km²

National Carbon Overview

Germany has been implementing energy saving policies since the 1970s, in response to the global oil crisis. The establishment of these policies was made easier by the existence of the KfW bank, a state-funded vehicle for securing low-cost loans to the private sector. A growing environmental awareness, focused by the Green Party movement, was established in 1998 with a coalition government. As a result, Germany has established itself as the world's first renewable energy economy. After unification in 1989, the degree of success of these policies was affected by the dilution of West Germany's housing stock with the lower-performance East German housing.

Germany has over 39 million dwellings, 29 million of which are pre-1979. Through a 1970s national incentive program, 19 million households have been upgraded with energy efficiency measures. The Energy Saving Act, which originally came into force in 1976, has since been used to set up the requirements for the thermal insulation of buildings, the energy performance and maintenance of heating appliances and the billing of heating cost according to individual consumption.

17% of Germany's gross electricity consumption is from renewables, and the government plans for domestic energy production to increase by 30% by 2030 and 60% by 2050. Despite the recent announcement to close all nuclear reactors in the country by 2022, the government has said this will not affect these goals but will help promote the increased use of renewable energy.


Exemplar Project


Vauban. URBED.

Vauban is a neighbourhood of 5,000 inhabitants, located 4km south of Freiburg town centre. It was built as a 'sustainable model district' on the site of a former French military base. Construction started in the mid-1990s, and by 2001, 2,000 people had moved in.[6]  All houses in Vauban are built to a low-energy consumption standard – maximum 65 kWh/m2/year (the average energy standard for new-build German houses is about 100 kWh/m2/year, 200 kWh/m2/year for older houses) with 42 units designed to Passivhaus standard and 10 units designed to 'plus energy' house standard. Low-carbon technologies include heating from a combined heat and power station, solar collectors, and photovoltaics. Vauban is estimated to be one of the largest solar districts in Europe.

Other measures include strategies for car-free living and public transport, joint building processes, information dissemination, progressive ecological building standards, rainwater infiltration, ecological sewage systems, social participation and cooperative planning for the development and its public spaces.[5]

Policy and Targets

Germany's Kyoto commitment is to reduce CO2 emissions by 20% by 2012 based on 1990 levels, a goal which was achieved in 2007. Currently the goal is for 40% reduction by 2020. The first National Energy Efficiency Action Plan 2007 outlines a set of on-going and planned energy efficiency measures to achieve an energy saving target of 9% from 2008-2016.

The Energy Conservation Regulations transposes the EU Energy Performance of Buildings Directive into National Law and requires energy certification for existing buildings. The certification can be based on calculated energy demand or actual energy consumption. To increase the energy efficiency in buildings, the 2009 amendments tightens standards for new and renovated buildings by 30%, which will be further tightened in 2012.

Existing Frameworks

The 2009 revision to the EnEV (Energy Conservation Regulations)  is one of the most stringent codes in the world and includes a commitment to meet 15% heating, hot water or cooling energy demand from renewables.[1] This can be waived if the building is able to save the equivalent through overall reductions in regulated energy emissions from fabric improvement. From 2009, the government has allocated 500 million Euros for incentives to promote the new EnEV regulations.

The DGNB (Deutsches Gütesiegel Nachhaltiges Bauen) is the German Sustainable Building Council which has developed a voluntary code for green building, offering a gold, silver or bronze certificate for sustainable building. The latest version for new dwellings was released in 2011.

Perhaps most famously, the Passivhaus standard began in Germany in the early 1990s. Originally intended for residential applications, the ultra-low energy building requirements can be applied to all buildings and now over 30,000 have been built worldwide, mostly in Germany, Austria and Scandinavia.[2]

Support, Incentives and Grants

The KfW bank has launched a number of initiatives which fund building rehabilitation measures that promote energy savings and the construction of new, low-energy homes. KfW has become the market leader in providing credit for investment in renewable energy projects. A recent program is the Energy-Efficient Rehabilitation Programme 2009 which offers long term, low interest loans and grants for rehabilitation and refurbishment measures to reduce the energy consumption or acquisition of a newly rehabilitated building.[3]

The Renewable Energy Sources Act (EEG, Erneuerbare Energien Gesetzes, 2000) stipulates that every kWh generated from renewable energy facilities receives a fixed feed-in tariff and that network operators must feed this energy into the grid preferentially to conventional sources. The program has helped give a tremendous boost to renewables in Germany and has attracted major renewable market leaders.[4]



  2. European Commission. (2009). Low Energy Buildings in Europe: Current State of Play, Definitions and Best Practices.
  3. KfW Bankengruppe.
  5. PRP, URBED and Design for Homes. (2008). Beyond Eco-towns: Applying the Lessons from Europe: Report and Conclusions, PRP Architects Ltd, London.
  6. Vauban District, Freiburg, Germany: Abstract.
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