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Draft Buildings Energy Act

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The German Federal Government adopted the draft Buildings Energy Act in a cabinet decision on the 23rd of October 2019. Herewith, the Coalition Agreement, the Climate Protection Program 2030 as far as the legislation about energy saving in the construction sector is concerned, as well as the decisions of the “Summit on Housing 2018” (“Wohngipfel 2018”) are transposed. The law is due to replace the current Energy Saving Act (EnEG) with the current Energy Saving Ordinance (EnEV) as well as the Renewable Energies Heat Act (EEWärmeG) to facilitate the construction of buildings and the legal enforcement and to achieve synergetic effects. On this site, the BBSR informs about the draft and the procedural process.

State of play: 15th March 2020

Procedure of legislation

On 20th December 2019, the “Bundesrat” (2nd chamber of German Parliament representing the local governments) decided on their position regarding the government's draft laying down several proposals for changes. On 5th February 2020, the Federal Government stated its opinion on the positions of the Bundesrat.

On 29th January 2020, the Bundestag (1st chamber of German Parliament) bega the legislative procedure; currently, the responsible parliamentary commissions are discussing the draft, the positions of the Bundesrat and the opinion of the Federal Government on the Bundesrat’s proposals. An expert hearing took place on 4th March 2020.

Objectives of the draft

Energy requirements for buildings currently are subject to two different legislative schemes. The Energy Saving Act with the Energy Saving Ordinance concerns regulations on construction and technical services of buildings. The Renewable Energies Heat Act requires, that for heating (and cooling) purposes of new buildings as well as existing buildings of the public authorities a fixed share of renewable energies has to be used.

The coexistence of these regulations has led to difficulties in application and legal enforcement, given the fact that the regulations are not sufficiently adjusted. The “Draft of a law to harmonise the legislation concerning energy in buildings” foresees, that EnEG, EnEV, and EEWärmeG shall be replaced by a future Buildings Energy Act (GEG).

When will the new legislation come into force?

The coming into force of the future Buildings Energy Act is linked to the date of its publication within the “Bundesgesetzblatt” (Official Journal of German Federal Legislation). The publication normally ensues the final parliamentary decision within a few weeks. The GEG is due to come into force on the 1st day of the third month following the date of publication. Assuming a normal parliamentary process, the coming into force can be expected in late summer 2020. If at this time the building permit for a project is already applied for or the construction has already started, this project in principle is subject to the former regulations as far as the owner does not opt for the application of the new regulations. A further transitional period concerns certain provisions about energy certificates for existing buildings; in this field, the “old” legislation shall apply for 5 extra months.

This relatively short transition period between publication and practical application of a law is acceptable,

  • because, in principle, the requirements the builder-owner has to comply with remain unchanged, concerning the subject and the value of the requirements,
  • because the revised standards due to be applied by planners, energy consultants and builders have been published many months ago, and the experts know that these standards will be introduced by the GEG,
  • and because the manufacturers of calculation software already have developed releases of their products that respect the future state of legislation.

Which regulations shall remain in principle?

For new buildings, also in the future, the requirements shall concern the annual primary energy demand, a minimum performance of the thermal insulation and a minimum share of renewable energies for heat- and cooling-generation. But in the future, these requirements shall be integral and harmonised, redundant as well as differing regulations shall be a matter of the past. The combining of formerly separate requirements, the recent development of EU-legislation as well as the technical progress facilitate the simplification of the regulations.
In the GEG, the level of requirements for new buildings introduced in 2016 shall remain unchanged. These are in accordance with the criteria given by the EU-directive on the energy performance of buildings for Nearly-Zero-Energy-Buildings. The integration of energy performance and renewable energies in one unique requirement scheme is in line with the approach of this directive. Experts' opinions confirm that the current level of requirements still fullfils the cost-optimality criterion fixed by the directive.
For existing buildings, the method of requirements consisting of “conditional requirements” and selected “mandatory upgrade requirements” shall remain as well. Furthermore, the level of requirements valid in cases of relevant alterations concerning elements of the building shell in principle will not be changed.

Which are the main changes foreseen in the draft?

For new residential buildings, a thoroughly simplified alternative method to prove compliance will be introduced. Already in the course of the recent amendment of the EnEV, the method “EnEV-easy” was established. Using this method, compliance can be proven without any energy performance calculation – just by considering the rules of application and the corresponding variants of construction. The new method now called the “Model building approach” alleviates the planning of new residential buildings and facilitates the enforcement of the law. The new method amends, concerning the content, the former method already introduced by the EnEV, but improves the process in a way that it is easier to use by builder-owners and planners.

In general, the GEG pays respect to the technical progress by introducing ´new standards. As calculation standard for energy performance henceforth the new release 2018 of DIN V 18599 shall be applied. This standard describes numerous innovative technologies that entered the market since the former release (2011). But during a transition period until 2023, for residential buildings without cooling the alternative use of the calculation standards DIN V 4108-6 / DIN V 4701-10 will remain legal.

Using highly efficient, economically reasonable and sustainable solutions, builder-owners will have a wider range of possibilities to comply with the requirements. The draft foresees the possibility to fullfil the quota of renewables energies for heating and cooling of new buildings by means of electricity generated in the vicinity of the building using renewable sources. Currently, this is not possible under the EEWärmeG. Further new regulation concern flexibilisations when using electricity from nearby renewable sources, refined biogas (Bio-Methane) supplied via the grid, gaseous biomass that is liquefied under pressure, or when a highly efficient heat generator installed in a new building supplies heat to existing buildings and thus replaces inefficient old appliances. The new regulations do not lead to a decrease in the level of thermal insulation. From 2026, the installation of oil-powered boilers will be limited in pursuit of the Climate Protection Program 2030.

The regulations of the future GEG are also – and mainly – due to contribute to climate protection. Because of this, future energy certificates will provide additional information on the calculated yearly CO2-Emissions. Furthermore, the draft introduces an “innovation clause” that allows builder-owners – by special application for a permit – to alternatively prove compliances with energy requirements using equivalent measures to reduce CO2-Emissions. Limited in time until the end of 2025, in case of modernisation measures the compliance can be proven jointly for a district of existing buildings instead of every single building. This provision, as well as the possibility to lay down agreements about a common provision of heat in a district, shall encourage the use of district approaches.

By combining EnEG, EnEV, and EEWärmeG, common regulations for legal enforcement are established. Besides a standard “declaration of compliance”, further cases of so-called “declarations by private entities” are introduced to facilitate the legal enforcement by authorities.
The responsible ministries – Ministry for Economic Affairs and Energy and Ministry of the interior, Building and Community – are obliged to assess the energy performance requirements of the GEG for new and existing buildings in 2023 respecting the principles of economic feasibility and openness for all technologies and – considering the results of the assessment – to put forward a draft amendment. A crucial point in the process will be the affordability of housing and construction.

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