More energy efficiency – from coffee roasting to building renovation

Osnabrück. The German Federal Foundation for the Environment (DBU) – one of the largest environmental foundations in Europe with an endowment of 2.39 billion euros – is calling for a heat turnaround and a paradigm shift in energy supply to meet the energy policy challenges. “Russia’s war of aggression against Ukraine has dramatically exacerbated the situation,” DBU Secretary General Alexander Bonde said today (Monday) at the foundation’s annual press conference (JPK). “We need to act faster than planned. The DBU wants to contribute to success with solution options,” Bonde said.

In the fight against the climate crisis and as a forward-looking approach to energy supply, energy security and the move away from fossil fuels, Bonde proposes a three-pronged strategy: “In addition to the important accelerated expansion of renewable energies such as wind, water and solar, we must pay much more attention to energy conservation and, above all, energy efficiency than we have in the past,” he said. “All of this holds great potential. We need to harness these energy treasures. The refurbishment of old buildings plays a huge role in this.” And: Even coffee roasting can help with energy efficiency. The DBU supports such a project.

Urgent need for action in the expansion of renewable energies

The need for action in the expansion of renewable energies (RE) is great, according to DBU department head Felix Gruber. Electricity, heat and transport in Germany require around 2277 terawatt hours (TWh). One TWh is one billion kilowatt hours (kWh). Gruber: “So far, renewables have accounted for 437 terawatt hours of that, or just 19.2 percent.” DBU Secretary General Bonde commented: “We must work together to increase this figure, drastically reduce emissions of climate-damaging greenhouse gases (GHG) such as carbon dioxide, and ideally ensure energy supply and security without fossil fuels such as coal and gas.”

Enormous savings potential in the industrial and building sectors

The background to this appeal is also the plans of politicians, according to which Germany is to reduce GHG emissions by 65 percent by 2030 compared to 1990, and likewise by 2030 a RE share of 80 percent is targeted for electricity consumption alone. Gruber: “We can do it, the DBU is outlining solutions with various innovative projects – both in cooperation with already established companies and with young start-ups.” There is “enormous potential for savings” in both the industrial and building sectors, he said. Gruber named three possible solutions: efficiency measures, further technical developments and the use of artificial intelligence (AI).

Paradigm shift in energy supply

The DBU department head pointed out one prerequisite: “A paradigm shift in energy supply in Germany is essential. The current grids are no longer sufficient in their inertia.” Says Bonde: “In the future, energy consumption will have to be geared to energy production. And the lower network levels will have to be upgraded – for example, through AI, control and sensors.” The “NetzWind” project, which is funded by the DBU with around 395,000 euros, is intended, for example, to stabilize energy supply networks and enable a so-called black start in the event of voltage fluctuations – in other words, to get a network going again from nothing, as in a cold start. Technological progress is part of another fresh DBU funding project: with almost 235,000 euros, the foundation is supporting the development of improved aerodynamics in wind turbine blades to increase plant performance and efficiency. And even coffee roasters can contribute to energy efficiency – with around ten million tons of coffee beans harvested worldwide, this is an outstanding economic factor. Gruber: “The roasting process is to be optimized with new measuring methods.” The prospect: minimization of energy consumption by 25 percent, reduced exhaust air pollution and no more faulty roasts. The DBU is providing funding of 289,000 euros.

“We need to get at the old building stock”.

“We want to open doors for new things, but not neglect the old,” Bonde said. The best example of this is the construction sector. DBU head of department Sabine Djahanschah: “Wood is a building material of the future – sustainable for more environmental and climate protection. That’s why we are providing around 492,000 euros in funding for the construction of the highest wooden skyscraper in Germany. But we also need to get at the old building stock; the comprehensive circular economy must become the guiding principle in construction.” For good reason: almost two-thirds of buildings nationwide were built before 1977 – that is, before insulation of roofs, walls and basement ceilings was prescribed by the Thermal Insulation Ordinance. The aim of the Federal Government but are climate-neutral buildings in Germany by 2045, i.e. without GHG emissions. In the European Union (EU), buildings are responsible for 40 percent of energy consumption and about one-third of GHG emissions, according to the EU Commission. The savings potential in the building sector is huge, says Djahanschah: “The heating requirement for multi-family houses, for example, can be reduced to a tenth – from around 250 to 25 kWh per square meter of living space per year – by refurbishing the building envelope and building services.” From refurbishment measures in Nuremberg to the Lumoview start-up and the energy-efficient refurbishment of Sonthofen High School: all DBU-funded projects contribute to greater energy efficiency.

Note: The DBU-JPK 2022 also available at