Warum verbrauchen wir nicht weniger Energie und nutzen grüneren Strom?

05.01.21 The residential consumption conundrum Charlotte Meyer • 5 min.

Scroll to Read

Germany coined the term “energy transition” (“Energiewende”), has a strong green mainstream, and is an ambitious, early mover in decarbonization. Yet in 2018 its households still used about as much energy as they did in 1990 (heat consumption declined somewhat, but fuel and electricity consumption remained fairly constant). How is this apparent contradiction possible?

Households account for just over a quarter of Germany’s total final energy consumption. Like in most countries, in Germany income level covaries with education credentials. But having a high income, more diplomas, and perhaps greater environmental awareness doesn’t necessarily make one a conservationist: the richer people in Germany are the more energy they generally consume. Low-income households, by contrast, have fewer opportunities to consume a lot of energy.

Too cozy?

The German Environment Agency reports that space heating makes up more than two-thirds of households’ final energy consumption. According to a study by University of Hamburg sociology professor Dr. Anita Engels, most people are unaware of where the energy for their heat comes from and how much they use. Many base their decisions on individual perceptions of comfort, not on whether their home is heated by natural gas, fuel oil, or a heat pump. Owners of apartment buildings are generally more concerned about energy consumption than their tenants. They’re also are in a better position to do something about it by reinsulating roofs and walls, replacing old and inefficient boilers, and making other energy upgrades.

Powering up?

Since 2015 the proportion of households in Germany who select green electricity tariffs has risen steadily. About 12.7 million had such a tariff in 2019, just under 25% of the total. But households’ carbon emissions have hardly changed. In 2017 German households were responsible for just under 95 million metric tons of carbon emissions, about the same as in 2005. Why? Because even though electronic devices are becoming increasingly energy efficient, people use more of them, which cancels out the energy savings. There’s also the rebound effect: when people buy an energy-smart product (LED lighting, an electric car), they tend to use it more. Moreover, according to Dr. Engels’s study, few people actually know which appliances and devices are the biggest energy guzzlers and how to use them more efficiently.

Green youth

A survey conducted in 2019 by the German Environment Agency found that environmental and climate protection is a very important issue for 81% of 14- to 22-year-olds compared with 67% for people older than 23. Today’s young people are tomorrow’s heads of household. If they put their environmental consciousness into practice, it could, over time, reduce Germany’s household energy consumption.


The contents of this website are created with the greatest possible care. However, Uniper SE accepts no responsibility for the accuracy, completeness and topicality of the content provided. Contributions identified by name reflect the opinion of the respective author and not always the opinion of Uniper SE.

You might also like

Energy • Economy Can electricity be both renewable and reliable? Hans-Joachim Ziegler • 5 min.
Energy • Climate Cutting carbon cost-effectively Hans-Joachim Ziegler • 6 min.
Energy • Innovation Will hydrogen’s future arrive? Hans-Joachim Ziegler • 7 min.
Energy • Climate • Economy Can our emissions be undone? Hans-Joachim Ziegler • 5 min.
Energy • Innovation • Science A British biologist’s uncanny clairvoyance Dariush Jones • 6 min.
Energy • Society • Climate A new era, a new color, a new world view Dariush Jones • 5 min.
Vladimir Ilyich Lenin
Energy • Society • Economy Russia modernizes its fossil power plants Dariush Jones • 7 min.
Energy • Society • Innovation Less fretting about jetting Thomas Schmidt • 4 min.
Energy • Innovation Harnessing more renewable energy, decarbonizing industry Thomas Schmidt • 3 min.
Energy • Event Debate.Energy Conference: Best of Jochen Brenner • 15 min.
Energy • Society “Corona is accelerating developments that we didn’t expect for several years” Hannah Meisters • 4 min.
Energy • Innovation “As green as hydrogen can get” Hans-Joachim Ziegler • 6 min.
Energy • Climate #Anthropause: is corona climate-friendly? Hans-Joachim Ziegler • 7 min.
Energy • Climate • Politics • Economy Gas is the ideal enabler of a successful energy transition Andreas Schierenbeck, Vorstandsvorsitzender Uniper SE • 4 min.
Joe Biden
Energy • Society • Climate • Politics Biden's climate plan: jobs, workers, unions. Oh, and clean energy too. Dariush Jones • 6 min.
Energy • Innovation • Economy A different incentive for energy efficiency Thomas Schmidt • 7 min.
Donald Trump
Energy • Society • Politics • Climate Donald Trump's climate policy: “A golden age of energy dominance” Dariush Jones • 7 min.
Bremst der Coronavirus die Energiewende aus?
Energy • Climate • Society Opportunity or obstacle? What corona means for the energy transition Hans-Joachim Ziegler • 9 min.
Wasserstoff: Energieträger der Zukunft
Energy • Climate • Opinions Hydrogen: Jules Verne’s vision brought to life Andreas Schierenbeck, Vorstandsvorsitzender Uniper SE • 8 min.
Energy • Innovation Nuclear fusion: elation or illusion? Hans-Joachim Ziegler • 5 min.
Energy • Economy • Science Fuel cells for passenger cars: hope or hype? Hans-Joachim Ziegler • 8 min.
Energy • Climate Avast those emissions! Hans-Joachim Ziegler • 8 min.
Energy • Economy A solution for Germany’s green power glut Thomas Schmidt • 6 min.
Energy • Society • Climate Corona promotes energy conservation Thomas Schmidt • 6 min.
Society • Energy • Climate Is climate protection socially just? Thomas Schmidt • 8 min.
Energy • Economy • Politics Here comes the sun (again) Hans-Joachim Ziegler • 7 min.
„Garden Rhapsody“: Die Super Trees in Singapur 
©Gardens by the Bay
Innovation • Climate • Energy Quirky green innovations: futuristic super trees and playgrounds at intersections Clara Müller • 6 min.
Warum verbrauchen wir nicht weniger Energie und nutzen grüneren Strom?
Energy • Society The residential consumption conundrum Charlotte Meyer • 5 min.
Um das Platzproblem zu lösen, schickt man die Solarpanele aufs Wasser
Energy • Innovation Swimming solar farms: the potential of “floatovoltaics” Clara Müller • 4 min.
Ist der Diesel etwa doch gar nicht so schlecht?
Energy • Climate • Economy Diesel cars are better than their reputation, yet still have no future in Germany Hans-Joachim Ziegler • 7 min.
Follow us on Social Media
Follow us
on Social Media

Your Internet connection is too slow, the page might be displayed delayed.