Smartphones, refrigerators, washing machines – our everyday routines would be inconceivable without electrical devices. They are equally important in other areas as well, whether in offices and businesses, hospitals and concert halls, in data centres or on production lines. Electrical devices are becoming increasingly powerful and efficient, but also more numerous. This is clearly confirmed by the statistics.
Pro rata energy consumption is hardly falling at all
Since 1990, Germany has seen a persistent drop in the consumption of energy per unit of gross domestic product, but the pro rata consumption has barely fallen at all. The Federal Government now aims to achieve a 10-percent cut in gross electricity consumption by 2020, compared with 2008. It fell by 4.6 percent between 2008 and 2014, but an upturn has again been noticeable since 2015. Reaching this 10-percent target is not a foregone conclusion, especially if one considers the long-term development in the electricity and energy market.
Electricity is a valuable and versatile source of energy. For the longest time it was produced using coal, gas or nuclear fission in large-scale power plants. Increasingly, though, it is now coming from decentralised wind turbines and solar power systems. Electricity is therefore an energy source that will enable the widespread incorporation of renewable energy sources within energy supply. The policy of linking sectors will therefore be used to promote the use of more electricity within the heat supply and transport sectors.
The Federal Government anticipates that electricity will become the most important energy source in the overall system and will account for roughly half the energy requirements by 2050. Today its share is approximately one quarter.
Savings potential in all sectors
It is therefore all the more imperative to further the cause of electrical efficiency. After all, electricity production, transport and also storage will automatically fall if consumption is reduced. This saves costs otherwise needed to build infrastructure and to purchase electricity. The following applies in principle to all areas of use – in private households,in business, trade, services and industry,in cities and municipalities: electricity consumption can be cut by 10 to 25 percent in just a few years. Some of the important aspects that would contribute to reaching this target include the replacement of inefficient domestic appliances, the introduction of efficiency criteria in public sector procurements, as well as information and funding programmes for energy-efficient cross-sector technologies such as pumps and pneumatic systems in industry.
In the National Action Plan on Energy Efficiency (NAPE), the Federal Government has defined instruments to increase electricity efficiency. dena has been involved in these efforts in different ways for many years now, especially by providing a range of information within the “Initiative EnergieEffizienz” (Energy Efficiency Campaign) for companies, institutions and private households. dena’s Energy Efficiency Award honours exemplary energy efficiency projects in the industrial sector. The agency also plays a key role in the implementation of several NAPE measures. Among other things, it is in charge of the Energy Efficiency Campaign Networks office.
Demand side management: Electricity consumption, depending on the weather
There is another reason why our approach to electricity is becoming more important within the energy transition. Production of energy in wind turbines and solar power systems fluctuates with the weather, not the respective demand. In order to absorb this fluctuation, flexiblity is necesary - in the demand side too. Companies whose electricity consumption can be varied to suit the current grid situation can make an important contribution here by applying demand side management (DSM).
This term refers to a system of controlling the demand for electricity, above all in industry, by deliberately switching loads on and off based on market signals. In Bavaria and Baden-Württemberg, dena has already investigated how DSM can be used in companies. Not only can they then balance out the fluctuating production of electricity in renewable energy installations, they will also be able to exploit new sources of income.