Press Release

dena Report on Buildings: Refurbishment rate still far too slow

Little change in insulation and heating market / Heat requirements and greenhouse gas emissions not decreasing fast enough / Kuhlmann says: ‘We need better incentives for homeowners’

To date, it looks unlikely that the Federal government's target of doubling the annual refurbishment rate, from 1 to 2 per cent, will be reached. This was revealed by the statistics for 2015 and 2016 in the new Report on Buildings by the Deutsche Energie-Agentur (dena) – the German Energy Agency – which was published at the start of the year. While markets for energy efficient heating grew by around 10 per cent between 2012 and 2015, and by around 4 per cent for windows, sales of insulating materials fell by 11 per cent. These results alone are proof enough that the rate of refurbishment is not changing as hoped. The refurbishment rate of German building stock is not recorded on a regular basis. In order to be able to assess change over the past few years, therefore, dena investigated various subsectors of building energy efficiency.

"Our figures show that there are no indications that energy efficiency is accelerating in the heating sector. That means the pressure to act is rapidly increasing. We have to achieve more and more in less and less time," says Andreas Kuhlmann, dena’s Chief Executive.

Another indicator of the sluggish dynamics of the refurbishment market is the development of heating consumption. If we project the present tendencies into the future, then the interim target of reducing heating consumption for buildings by 20 per cent by 2020 is going to be delayed by around two years. Between 2008 and 2015, heating consumption was reduced by around 9.7 per cent (climate-adjusted). Even the non climate-adjusted figure was only around 11.1 per cent.

Energy consumption: Refurbished old buildings achieve almost the same values as new buildings

"The measures taken so far to promote energy-saving refurbishments are falling short," Andreas Kuhlmann explains. ‘‘We need better incentives for homeowners, so that they will invest in energy-efficient refurbishment. The key instrument for increasing the attractiveness of investment is funding. There’s still a lot of potential. What’s needed is an increase of funding mechanisms and better conditions.’

To see how energy-efficient refurbishment pays off, you only have to take a look at energy consumption. Old buildings constructed before 1979, and therefore before the first Thermal Insulation Ordinance came into effect, are responsible for two thirds of heat consumption in residential buildings. By contrast, completely refurbished residential buildings achieve consumption figures that are nearly at the same level as those of new buildings.

No reduction in greenhouse gas emissions

The total greenhouse gas emissions of all sectors (transport, industry, business/trade/services, private households) remained approximately constant in 2015, in comparison with the previous year. The reduction in CO2 compared with 1990 was still 27 per cent. The target of cutting emissions by 40 per cent by 2020, therefore, hardly seems still achievable. Currently, no reliable figures are available for 2016.

By contrast, in the renewable energy subsector, Germany is by and large on course. At the present rate of progress, the targets set for the share of renewables in the electricity and heating markets will be met quite soon. Only the transport sector is still far from its target. Here, the share of renewable energy sources is supposed to increase by 10 per cent by 2020. At the end of 2015, the figure was a modest 5 per cent.

About the dena Report on Buildings 2016

The dena Report on Buildings brings together all the important statistics and analyses concerning building energy efficiency in Germany that appeared in 2016 – for example, the energy data of the Federal Ministry for Economic Affairs and Energy, which were published at the end of the year, KfW funding statistics, or data from the Federal Statistical Office. It supplements them with dena’s own calculations, makes connections clear, and presents the crucial data in an easily digestible, compact form. A regularly updated reference work, the Report on Buildings provides a useful service for political decision-makers, experts, companies, associations, scientists and journalists.

The topic are wide and varied, ranging from the energy consumption of buildings and information on ownership and tenancy structures to legal framework conditions for energy efficiency in the building sector. Moreover, the Report does not simply examine the current state of the building stock, but also the way it has developed in relation to economic, political and historical events.

The print version of the dena Report on Buildings costs 100 euros, and the PDF file 75 euros. Additionally, all graphics are available as presentation slides. The dena Report on Buildings can be ordered online at