- Buildings Guide
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The German internet portal www.co2online.de provides around 20 online consulting tools, which help consumers to find out about their energy consumption and what possibilities they have to save energy and costs. Since 2004, almost 5 million visitors have received specific online advice. One third of all recent building refurbishments in Germany were informed by one of the co2online tools, which are also available on several partner homepages in order to increase the outreach. This has, in combination with personal follow-up advice and financial incentives provided by the German government, contributed to actions that reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 1.4 million tonnes per year. The contribution of the online tools is estimated to be one quarter of this.
co2online aims at reducing heating and electrical energy consumption in private households in order to achieve CO2 emission reductions. In addition, consumers can benefit from saved energy costs. To achieve this, the CO2 consulting firm, together with its partner SenerCon GmbH has developed around 20 online consulting tools, which help consumers to find out about their energy consumption and what opportunities they have to save energy (co2online.de 2012a). Most of the tools have received financial support from the German government (FME - Federal Ministry for the Environment, Nature Conservation and Nuclear Safety), but some also from media, business associations, companies, and non-governmental organisations.
co2online supports around 20 different tools, like the HeizCheck (heating energy consumption and savings check), StromCheck express (electric energy consumption and savings check), KühlCheck (refrigerators and freezers energy savings check), and StandbyCheck (standby electricity consumption and savings check). Usually, these tools require some input data from the visitor and then provide tangible proposals for energy efficiency action, with a calculation of the energy savings, the investment needed, and the economic return that can be expected (simple payback, internal rate of return).
Another service is the “Heizspiegelkampagne” (Municipal Heating Survey), which informs consumers of potential energy savings in the heating sector and should encourage a fruitful dialogue between landlords/landladies and tenants about possible improvements (co2online.de 2012b; Dunkelberg et al. 2011). There used to be a subsidy by the FME that offered the heating check for free, but the allocated funds are fully utilised, so this service is now offered for 35 Euros (heizspiegel.de 2012).
Another information campaign is “Energiesparclub” (Energy Savings Club) which aims to inform households about energy efficiency and climate protection. It consists of different measures like the “Energiesparkonto” (Energy Savings Account) with information concerning energy use, CO2 emission and energy costs for a dwelling, completed with recommended energy saving measures. There is a webpage (energiesparportal.de), which functions as a virtual meeting point for people who are interested in saving energy. There they get tips and have the possibility to exchange individual experiences on the topic. It is sponsored by the FME (co2online.de 2012c/ Energiesparclub).
The “Sparpumpe” (“SavingPumps”) campaign tries to make consumers aware of the potential energy savings by replacing old heating systems circulating pumps by new, highly energy-efficient circulating pumps. The webpage (Sparpumpe 2012a) demonstrates to building owners the advantages of such replacement. It is co-funded by the FME (co2online 2012d). Even if the German government (via the KfW public bank) does not provide subsidies for the highly energy-efficient circulating pumps anymore, these are still worth the investment. It is possible to save more than EUR 1,000 in a 15 year period and because of the decrease of annual electricity consumption from 500 to 100 kWh from standard to highly efficient circulating pump, the saved electricity cost renders the investment cost-effective in three to five years (Sparpumpe 2012b).
Through several campaigns, which are also hosted on other partner homepages, major impacts on employment in industry and trade can be recognized. The campaigns and tools of co2online.de created over 31,700 person years of employment (share attributable to co2online as of 21 June 2013) (co2online.de 2013a).
The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has launched a campaign called “Make a Change with Energy Star.” Similarly to co2online, it encourages consumers to pledge saving energy. Moreover, it provides solutions and further advice on how to save energy at home, at work and in the community (EPA 2012). As the campaign is launched within the Energy Star framework, a label which about three in four Americans already know, the recognition value for the “Make a Change with Energy Star Campaign” appears to be quite high. However, co2online have initiated various campaigns (see above) that address people more directly.
co2online can be regarded as a tool kit that comprises various instruments in order to make households aware of energy saving potentials and enable them to reduce their CO2 footprint and save energy costs. As there are 39 million residential building units of which 29 million – consuming more than 75% of the energy consumed by the residential building sector - were built before Germany’s first energy efficient building regulation was introduced in 1979, it has become a priority to the government to push the refurbishment rate of residential buildings to 2%. However, as there are several barriers to implementation (uncertainty, financing), a tool (kit) was needed that attempts to overcome these obstacles.
co2online aims at reducing heating and electric energy consumption in private households in order to achieve CO2 emission reductions. The website provides various tools enabling consumers to self-assess their energy consumption and calculate energy saving potentials. Lastly, the tool refers to further instruments such as (free) information brochures or energy savings experts so that savings could be realised immediately.
It is a national measure.
The focus of this option lies on buildings and appliances, especially on heating, energy use and user behaviour, refrigerators and freezers, as well as building integrated power generation methods. Other appliances such as clothes washers or dryers, televisions or office equipment are only addressed indirectly through the “StandbyCheck”.
The website gives technical advice with regard to building improvements or may recommend behavioural changes in order to lower energy consumption.
One of the core pillars of Germany’s energy saving policy is the Building Refurbishment Programme which offers financial incentives to building owners if they perform building-specific energy saving measures (see the bigEE file on “KfW Energy Efficient Refurbishment and KfW EnergyEfficient Construction“).
co2online can also be regarded as a supplementary or facilitating tool for other measures. For example, in Germany an energy performance certificate for buildings needs to be handed over to potential buyers or tenants. However, the certificate also includes energy related building improvements which do not have to be given to buyers/ tenants. co2online recommends insisting on this information.
Co2online includes innovative elements.
The website provides consumers with various calculators measuring the specific CO2 emission reduction potential for various options. The “Electricity Calculator”, “Pumps Calculator” or “Heating Costs in Old Buildings Calculator” offer information on a broad range of energy related problems in buildings.
A “funding guide” (Förderratgeber) is available for home builders and owners showing funding opportunities by the government.
On households can register for a free Energy Savings Account (ESA). By providing data on heating, electricity and water consumption users can easily keep track on their consumption patterns and are even offered comparable data for the average German household. Energy savings potential are, of course, provided as well. For this very purpose a (smart phone and tablet PC) app was developed, which is available free of charge, making it very convenient to enter relevant consumption data into the ESA platform without having a smart meter installed.
The German Federal Ministry for the Environment, Nature Conservation and Nuclear Safety (BMU) awards innovative ideas in the cooling industry with a so called “Cooling Price” and a total prize money of €52,500. co2online is a co-operation partner for the BMU.
Furthermore, co2online initiates further campaigns such as “Climate seeks Protection” (Klima sucht Schutz) and “Pumps Campaign” (Pumpenkampagne) with the ultimate goal of reducing CO2 emissions.
Every month this web-based initiative also awards the “Platform Partner of the Month”. These partners, for example, can be retailers that have launched an online campaign for energy efficient appliances.
The main homepage of co2online could refer to financial incentive schemes provided by the government more prominently.
The following pre-conditions are necessary to implement co2online:
Agencies or other actors responsible for implementation
co2online is a non-profit advisory agency.
Most of co2online’s campaigns are funded to a large extend by the BMU.
The platform is supported by an advisory board comprising experts from various institutions
The platform was launched in 2003. Together with the SEnerCon GmbH, an enterprise supporting building owners and tenants in reducing heating and electricity consumption, co2online launched its various online advisory tools and calculators. Measures are updated and expanded regularly.
Actors responsible for design
co2online gGmbH (NGO)
Online tools and calculators were developed together with SEnerCon GmbH (Consultancy)
Actors responsible for implementation
co2online gGmbH (NGO) together with partners
The monitoring system keeps track of the most important measures initiated by co2online.
It monitors CO2 emissions saved, revenues for industrial branches in Euros, employment achieved in person years and the number of modernised building units.
Data is also monitored regarding the use of the Energy Saving Account and, moreover, regarding the use of more than 400 advisory tools and partners of co2online.
The main page of co2online includes a “Climate Balance” counter not only showing avoided CO2 emissions and revenues but also employment impulses (in person years).
The evaluation for the heating assessment asked in one survey questions, whether participants, who implemented a recommendation, had observed heating consumption costs. And, indeed, the majority (45%) experienced lower costs while 12% felt that nothing had changed (21% did not know) (Dunkelberg 2011, p. 43).
All assessments in the evaluation sample taken together save 85.3 GWh of heating energy each year. Taking also into account planned building improvements savings increase to 143.1 GWh annually (Dunkelberg et al. 2011, p. 55).
According to an evaluation carried out in 2006, users of the heating check tool create energy savings of 26.1 billion kWh in 20 years. The contribution or impulse of the calculator is considered to be around 10.8% meaning that the heating check is responsible for 2.8 billion kWh. The study also found that heating substitution is the most effective measure saving 36 kWh/yr, followed by facade insulation (33 kWh/yr) (Friedrich 2006, p. 47).
An evaluation found that between May 2008 and February 2010, the use of the Pumps Check Guide led to a reduction of 275 KWh per substituted heating or hot water system circulation pump in 4.3 years (which is the average number of years an old pump is exchanged before the average lifespan of 17 years is reached). This figure is based on responses that see the Pumps Check Guide as the primary cause for their decision to renew their pump. When also taking into account those decisions that were “partly influenced” by co2online, then the energy savings calculate to 486 KWh in 4.3 years.
It is further estimated that following 55,000 advices given, the result in reduction of 10.8 GWh annually and or 184 GWh after 17 years (which is the lifespan of a pump) was also achieved (ISoMe 2010, pp. 21).
No information is available to us on whether the individual installations influenced by co2online achieved the full potential, nor which share of the overall national potential the service achieved to realise. An example of the influence it had on inevstors’ decisions is given by the following:
Guide to Modernisation
Verhoog (2012) asked 803 users whether the guide had any influence on their decision to refurbish. 4.8% said the guide was critical to their decision, 17.8 % answered that the guide, at least somehow, influenced their decision. This hints to the fact that the guide has a supplementary function helping owners to bring themselves to refurbish their homes.
Expenses only for the guide to modernisation are considered to be around € 200,000 per year (Wuppertal Institute 2006, p. 5).
Between 2004 and mid 2013, co2online estimates it has saved around 7 million tonnes of CO2, created revenues for the industry of €2.2 billion and employment effects of around 32,000 person years as of June 2013 (co2online 2013a). This estimate is based on the evaluations of the Guide to Modernisation, Heating Assessment, Heating Check, Refrigerator Check, and Pumps Check made for co2online.
Individual users were able to make the following cost savings by way of example:
Each heating or hot water system circulation pump results in electricity cost savings of EUR 73 annually or EUR 282 in 4.3 years (time, before pumps have to be replaced due to old age). Those responsees, which primarily decided to exchange the old pump because of co2online, led to savings of EUR 14 or EUR 56, respectively. 55,000 advices given created EUR 2.4 million per year and EUR 41.5 million after 17 years (ISoMe 2010, p. 23).
In total, the co2online service can be considered highly cost-effective even given its relatively low contribution to most investment decisions. Although the costs for the design and maintenance of the online guides were not available, they may be in the range of a few million EUR per year and can be regarded as very small compared to their impact; e.g. as in June 2013 around 7 million tons of CO2 were saved, EUR 2.2 billion in revenues as well as close to 32,000 person years were created.
Even considering the incremental investment in energy efficiency, the services will be cost-effective overall, particularly since cost-effectiveness to the user is one feature in the advice given. As the advice is based on average situations, cost-effectiveness may, however, not be given for all users and actions (see below).
In addition to direct energy and cost savings, the online guides also contributed to increased investment and employment in the building sector, as the evaluations of some of the guides showed.
Dunkelberg et al. (2011, p. 50) conclude that each assessment resulted in €16,641 in revenues for the building sector. Extrapolation of 2,106 survey participants shows that 14,253 assessments created €237 million in total revenues for the buildings sector. Moreover, based on the fact that 40,000 heating assessments have been realised, investments translate into 1,633 full-time jobs or 2,811 full-time jobs, if planed investments are included, between 2004 and 2009.
Investments in buildings having used the Heating Check are estimated to be at EUR 2bn. 10.8% of all users say that the calculation had a large influence. Friedrich (2006) estimates that EUR 223 million of investments by the time of the evaluation resulted mainly from the Heating Check. 28.3% of all users say that the HeatingCheck had, at least, to some extent an influence on their decision to make the investment. Based on these answers the investments resulting from the Heating Check would increase to EUR 586 million (Friedrich 2006, p. 40).
Moreover, Friedrich (2006, p. 6) calculates an employment effect of 12,422 person years of which 1,344 are a direct consequence of the HeatingCheck.
Guide to Modernisation
Verhoog (2012, p. 30) calculated the cost-effectiveness of measures at two levels. First, he compared only the share of the energy efficiency modernisation element of the total investment with the cost-savings, which is the appropriate way to calculate cost-effectiveness. Many actions were cost-effective on this basis. Second, he compared the total costs of the investment with the energy cost savings for households, which not appropriate but nevertheless what many investors use. Most of the actions were not found to be cost-effective on this basis, a fact well known in literature. For example, total costs for façade insulation are considered to be at €35,391. Modernisation, apart from maintenance work, accounts for 50% of these costs. The modernisation share for solar measures is considered to be 100%.
For the guide to modernisation, which is only one of many tools of co2online, Verhoog (2012, p. 31) found out that the guide, and implemented and planned measures in particular, have leveraged €1.5 Million in contracts for the construction sector. As close to 70,000 individual cases of online advice were completed between 2006 and 2011, this means that every advice resulted in more than € 20,000 in contracts for the construction sector.
In turn, this has created an employment effect of 14,000 person years. Users that stated to have been “very convinced” by the guide are considered to have created 678 person years.