On 18 June the Bundestag (the directly-elected German lower House of Parliament) passed the Building Energy Act (Gebäudeenergiegesetz – GEG), and on 3 July 2020, the Bundesrat (= Federal Council: the upper House) gave it final approval. The Act will enter into force at the beginning of October. The GEG will unify the provisions of energy saving law for buildings.
After six years of discussion and several postponements, the GEG has finally been adopted. The aim of the GEG is to minimise buildings’ primary energy needs. This is another important step on the way to the goal laid down by the Federal Government of achieving climate-neutral building stock by 2050. The GEG combines the previous Energy Saving Ordinance (Energieeinsparverordnung – EnEV), Energy Savings Act (Energieeinsparungsgesetz – EnEG) and Renewable Energies Heat Act (Erneuerbare-Energien-Wärmegesetz – EEWärmeG) in a single set of rules.
It was urgently necessary for the GEG to also lay the basis for the amendment of the Heating Costs Ordinance (Heizkostenverordnung – HKVO). The purpose of the HKVO is to transpose the EU Energy Efficiency Directive (EED), which was amended in December 2018, into national law, something which must be done by 25 October 2020. After the implementation of the EED, only remotely readable meters and heating cost distributors may be installed in buildings from the end of October onwards. Despite all the obstacles involved, the introduction of remotely readable consumption recording devices will offer decisive advantages for portfolio holders, simplifying property management processes and allowing precise final energy bills to be created when tenants move in and out.
From October onwards, the EED will require owners of existing buildings and property managers to inform tenants about their energy consumption during the course of the year, in addition to the annual billing. Initially they will be expected to do so twice a year, and from January 2022 onwards monthly. The data may be provided by post, as previously, or digitally, via an online portal or an app. The digital path also facilitates direct communication between tenants and landlords, making it much easier to arrange appointments.
The GEG also places high demands on the installed technology (Section 6 (1) No. 4 and paragraph 5): This must comply with the guidelines of the Federal Office for Information Security (BSI) concerning data protection, data security and interoperability. If a smart meter gateway (SMGW) is installed in the property as part of the smart meter rollout, these requirements are already met once the gateway receives BSI certification. The SMGW is much more than just a digital measurement infrastructure. It also constitutes one component of the answer to the issue of climate protection in conjunction with affordable housing, as well as a foundation for the requirements of housing of the future. For instance, the SMGW makes possible applications that use machine-to-machine communication to increase energy efficiency and reduce operating costs. In addition, an SMGW allows the fields of smart metering and submetering to be linked intelligently, thereby avoiding the duplication of structures and unnecessary costs.
The GEG also lays down uniform energy requirements for plant technology and structural heat protection of new and existing buildings, as well as stipulating that the remaining energy requirements for heating and cooling are covered by renewable energies. The GEG does not initially entail higher energy requirements for existing and new buildings. Whether these requirements need to be made more stringent will not be addressed until 2023. One new feature is the innovation clause adopted into the law at the instigation of the housing industry. The Federal Association of German Housing and Real Estate Enterprise Registered Associations (Bundesverband deutscher Wohnungs- und Immobilienunternehmen – GdW) and the German Property Federation (Zentraler Immobilien Ausschuss – ZIA) take a positive view of this clause. It provides that not every single building in a district has to meet the energy requirements but rather a residential district as a whole. This allows particularly energy-efficient properties to compensate for less efficient buildings, which increases flexibility for housing companies.