Germany passes law to make energy savings compulsory

BERLIN, Sept 21 (Reuters) – Germany’s lower house of parliament on Thursday passed a bill to make saving energy compulsory in all economic sectors, a move intended to help fight climate change and curb use of imported fossil fuels.

The Energy Efficiency Act, introduced by the Greens-led economy ministry, includes regulation for energy savings in public buildings, industry and fast-growing data centres across Germany, with the goal of a 26.5% cut by 2030 from 2008.

Spurred by fears that persistently low Russian gas supplies could lead to shortages, the German government introduced some initial energy-saving measures last year, including banning heating for private swimming pools and encouraging people to work from home.

With the new law, companies will be forced to draw up plans for energy savings but there will not be binding measures, said a spokesperson for the German Energy Efficiency Initiative, a network of companies that has been pushing for an ambitious energy efficiency policy.

The group said it was doubtful whether the law would meet EU regulations or be enough for Germany to reach its 2030 climate goal of cutting CO2 emissions by 65% compared to 1990.

In 2022, Germany’s energy consumption hit its lowest since 1990, according to the Federal Environment Agency, but the country missed its 2020 target of a 20% cut from 2008.

The European Union in March struck a deal to cut final energy consumption across the bloc by 11.7% by 2030 compared with energy consumption forecasts made in 2020.

Yielding to industrial lobbies’ pressure, Thursday’s approved law was watered down from its original April draft, scrapping targets for industrial companies and consumption beyond 2030.

A group representing industrial companies said the new law lacked positive incentives to save energy, adding that it would lead to legal uncertainty and limit growth.

“The savings targets now standardized by law … cannot realistically be achieved without endangering economic growth in this country,” said Achim Dercks, the managing director at DIHK Chambers of Commerce and Industry.

Berlin hopes incentives to encourage more efficient and greener heaters that passed parliament earlier this month and expected rising carbon pricing will contribute to efficiencies.

Reporting by Riham Alkousaa, Markus Wacket and Christian Kraemer; Editing by Rachel More and Rosalba O’Brien

Our Standards: The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

Acquire Licensing Rights, opens new tab

Riham Alkousaa is the energy and climate change correspondent for Reuters in Germany, covering Europe’s biggest economy’s green transition and Europe’s energy crisis. Alkousaa is a Columbia University Journalism School graduate and has 10 years of experience as a journalist covering Europe’s refugee crisis and the Syrian civil war for publications such Der Spiegel Magazine, USA Today and the Washington Times. Alkousaa was on two teams that won Reuters Journalist of the year awards in 2022 for her coverage of Europe’s energy crisis and the Ukraine war. She has also won the Foreign Press Association Award in 2017 in New York and the White House Correspondent Association Scholarship that year.