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German and Norwegian policy approach to residential buildings’ energy efficiency—a comparative assessment

Abstract

Buildings in private and domestic use are responsible for about 30% of the global greenhouse gas emissions attributable mainly to their need for heating and cooling energy. This corresponds to about 40% of the global final energy consumption. Therefore, a viable implementation of building energy efficiency policies is inevitable to realize a transformation of the energy system to mitigate climate change. Within the building sector lies a huge potential for emission reduction consisting in the renovation of the existing building stock and climate-friendly building guidelines applicable to new constructions, both adapting CO2-neutral technology solutions. However, as there are several different pathways leading to a decarbonized energy system, there is always the question which political and technological solutions are most efficient, effective, and feasible. This paper aims to analyze building efficiency policy measures and instruments and the related technological solutions in two front-runner countries of the energy transition, possessing different structural conditions: Germany and Norway. We hence apply a comparative approach which allows us to present and assess the policies in place. The paper answers three research questions: (1) Which policies prevail in Germany and Norway to foster the deployment of energy efficient and decarbonized solutions for residential buildings? (2) How do these policies respond to country-specific barriers to the energy transition in the building sector, and (3) What effects do they have on the actual implementation of technological and societal solutions? This research provides a new insight to the highly relevant topic of energy efficiency in buildings in the context of international Intended Nationally Determined Contribution benchmarking and discusses some unsolved trade-offs in the translation of the global climate governance into the national building sector.

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Notes

  1. Ürge-Vorsatz, Novikova, Köppel & Boza-Kiss (2009) in their paper give a structured overview of the question as to whether or not the estimated reductions in the building sector are justified.

  2. The Climate Policy Initiative is a research network that has been founded in 2009. The institute conducts studies to evaluate and compare climate policies around the world with a focus on energy and land use policies. See http://climatepolicyinitiative.org/.

  3. See Harvey (2009) for more details on different technological options to reduce energy consumption in buildings

  4. For more information on the Norwegian standards for energy efficiency, also used for energy labeling, see http://www.energimerking.no/no/Energimerking-Bygg/Energimerking-av-bolig/Om-energiattesten/Karakterene-i-energiattesten/.

  5. For more information on the German standards for energy efficiency, which is also used for energy labeling, see https://www.energieausweis-vorschau.de/.

  6. The European and national statistical data are contradicting in that case: To guarantee the comparability of the case countries, we decided to refer to the Eurostat numbers that include references to both Norway and Germany. The German statistics, e.g., state that even more than one half of the Germans rent their houses (57%) in 2013 (Statistisches Bundesamt 2013).

  7. The cited data were extracted from the database of the ODYSSEE-MURE project. The goal of this European Project was to monitor the energy efficiency trends and related policies. Twenty-eight EU Member States plus Norway were involved. The project was co-funded by the Intelligent Energy Europe Program.

  8. In 2017, two German ministries, the Federal Ministry for Economic Affairs and Energy acting together with the Federal Ministry for the Environment, Nature Conservation, Building and Nuclear Safety, tried to introduce a new law called “The Building Energy Act” (Gebäudeenergiegesetz, GEG). The Building Energy Act was supposed to combine the three existing laws, such as the Energy Conservation Act, the Energy Saving Ordinance, and the Renewable Energies Heat Act, in response to the difficulties of compliances with three different and sometimes contradictory laws in force. Due to a disagreement within the government coalition, they were not able to pass the law in the past legislation (Federal Ministry for Economic Affairs and Energy/Federal Ministry for the Environment, Nature Conservation, Building and Nuclear Safety 2017).

  9. The main strategic documents covering energy efficiency are Climate Action Plan 2050 (Federal Ministry for the Environment, Nature Conservation, Building and Nuclear Safety 2016); 3rd National Energy Efficiency Action Plan—NEEAP (Federal Government of Germany 2014); National Action Plan on Energy Efficiency—NAPE (Federal Ministry for Economic Affairs and Energy, 2014); and Climate Action Program 2020 (Federal Ministry for the Environment, Nature Conservation, Building and Nuclear Safety 2014a).

  10. The comparatively high electricity prices in Germany, both in total and relative to the household’s income, result from the increasing costs related to taxes and contributions in the context of the energy transition (“EEG-Umlage”). A similar development can be seen in Denmark. (Dieckhöner 2013)

  11. The potential and limitations of prosumers in the energy transition in Germany are subject to a recent study called “Prosumer-Haushalte.” Some of the project’s publications are referenced above. More information on the project can be found here: http://www.prosumer-haushalte.de/veroeffentlichungen.html.

  12. The investment programs by the state-owned KfW bank support retrofits of the buildings that follow fixed, often relatively intensive, renovation standards. More information on the KfW loan program can be found here: https://www.kfw.de/inlandsfoerderung/Privatpersonen/Bestandsimmobilie/Energieeffizient-Sanieren/F%C3%B6rderratgeber.

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Acknowledgements

This research was started during a PhD course titled “The Transition towards Sustainable Energy Systems” as part of the Norwegian Research School in Renewable Energy. This course was given by the UiO Energy (University of Oslo) and the Environmental Policy Research Centre (Freie Universität Berlin). We would also like to thank Andrea Bues, Andrzej Ceglarz, Yi Hyun Kang, Miranda Schreurs, and Dongping Wang for their valuable inputs and suggestions as well as two anonymous reviewers for their useful comments. We would further like to acknowledge the Graduate School of the Technische Universität München for financing the proofreading service.

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Appendix

Appendix

Table 4 Comparison of energy efficiency measures in households (old buildings) in Germany and Norway source: ODYSEE-MURE database (Enerdata 2016)

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Amoruso, G., Donevska, N. & Skomedal, G. German and Norwegian policy approach to residential buildings’ energy efficiency—a comparative assessment. Energy Efficiency 11, 1375–1395 (2018). https://doi.org/10.1007/s12053-018-9637-5

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Keywords

  • Mitigating climate change
  • Residential buildings
  • Policy measures and instruments for energy efficiency
  • Barriers to the energy transition
  • Energy efficiency technologies