Such a lofty goal may seem unrealistic, especially when you consider that Germany continues to grow economically speaking, though Craig Morris insists that a simple two step plan is all that will be needed to get the ball rolling.
During 2014, Germany’s energy consumption was reduced by a massive 4.7%, while at the same time the economy grew by 1.6%, so the real question that needs to asked is, will the country be able to reduce their consumption by 50% come 2050 without impeding its economy?
Let’s go back and review the last few years in order to answer that question.
Energy consumption decline predicted to cap growth
Germany’s weather during 2013 was freezing when compared to the heat wave of 2014, which also happened to be the hottest year recorded for Germany going back to the 1880s. So keep in mind that energy consumption on whole throughout Europe was down due to the good favour of hot weather.
When it comes to better efficiency and reducing energy consumption, majority imagine high tech applications – such as switching from oil lamps to LED lights. They are correct in a sense, but better efficiency doesn’t necessarily mean waiting for technologies that still need to be developed, as we already have two very effective advances; that being cogeneration plants and Passive House architecture.
Germany utilises close to 30% of their energy consumption as transportation fuel, 50% is used for heat, and 20% for electricity. Other countries like America have a bigger share in the electricity number due to large-scale air-conditioning needs.
Passive House architecture design capable of significantly decreasing energy
Passive House architecture models may reduce energy consumption through space heating by up to 90%. Such designs have been continuously refined over the past two decades and the cost disparity between building this and traditional architecture is ever decreasing.
By 2021 the EU Building Directive will require Passive House Standards (close to zero energy buildings) for all new establishments and will even apply to government buildings throughout the EU beginning 2019.
Of course, some construction projects do not need a full rebuild and instead only require minor renovating. In these instances the Passive House models are not 100% effective, however, they are still capable of reducing energy consumption by close to 90%.
Much heat will still be needed within the industry, and this is where cogeneration comes into play. Bigger central power plants are efficient at around 40% of the time while the rest results in wasted heat that is collected in unused cooling towers. When a percentage of this heat is recovered from smaller, distributed plants (aka cogeneration units), then demand for processed heat can be addressed.
Passive Houses architecture and congeneration plants to reduce waste
Working together, the Passive House designs reduce energy consumption through minimised heat production, while cogeneration plants recycle waste heat from utilities and supply the remaining demand. The best part about this all, is the fact that both already exist.
The only invention still to take place is the electrification of the transport industry, which have so many options to bring it into fruition.
As progress is being made with battery technology, it makes logical sense that renewable fuel sources make up part of a niche market. As such, combinations are very probable, such as users making the switch from trains to EV’s etc.
The main issues pertaining to the electrification of transport is the infrastructure needed to support the system, such as charging stations and the like. But many competing infrastructures will quite easily increase the consumer’s options about making the switch when it comes to transport options.
Electrification within transport will allow the industry to be more efficient, as traditional internal combustion engines have a lower efficiency at around 20%, when compared to the 80%-90% of an electric car.
Increasing amount of industries moving towards renewable energy
The aviation sector remains a point of contention, but hopefully as more industries move in this direction, we can overcome these obstacle too. Shipping is another area that electrification is not often spoke about. It’s the worst kept secret that emissions from shipping are not often reported, though the EU plans to include ships using their EU ports beginning in 2018.
With political parties at play, it’s scary to think that Passive House architecture will be nearly 30 years old by the time almost-zero-energy homes become law in ten years time, whilst there still are no requirements insight for renovations.
Though it also has been around for decades, the big shift from large central plants to cogeneration units will be ., and this option itself has been around for decades as well.
Divesting from traditional energy utilities and reducing energy consumption creates further challenges to municipal governments, and even pension funds. So at the end of the day, energy efficiency is not something that will magically happen. It will take a lot of effort and commitment by forward-thinking people, companies and governments to change the way we currently live and develop a sustainable future.