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Green electricity, cooling ceilings and home office

By Antonia Mannweiler, tagesschau.de

Every kilowatt hour of energy saved counts for the coming winter, which could bring about a supply emergency. In many German households, therefore, electricity or hot water is already being saved. But even in the offices of the Federal Republic, which are currently sparsely staffed due to the summer holidays or due to corona, there will have to be a lot of budgeting in the coming weeks and months.

Benefit from energetic measures

How is energy saved in the offices of Germany's largest housing group? After all, Vonovia had already announced that it would gradually lower the temperatures in its more than 500,000 apartments at night. The heating output is then reduced between 11 p.m. and 6 a.m. "By lowering it, we can save up to eight percent of the heating costs," Vonovia boss Rolf Buch told tagesschau.de.

According to the housing group, they are currently examining how energy can be saved in their own offices. The company has already made advance payments: over the years, the energy supply in the real estate portfolio has been gradually converted to green electricity, says Vonovia. Thanks to the photovoltaic system on the roof of the company headquarters, the company can largely supply itself with energy.

Cooling ceilings in the Commerzbank headquarters

There are also suggestions as to where energy can still be saved in the Frankfurt bank towers, where lights are on until late at night. There are still many ideas about what you could do, according to Germany's second largest financial institution, Commerzbank. However, one still benefits from energetic measures that were implemented some time ago.

In the Commerzbank headquarters, for example, there are cooling ceilings that work like reversed heaters. Chilled water is routed through the ceilings with the aim of cooling the building almost six degrees below the outside temperature. According to the bank, the modernization of fans in the service center in Frankfurt saves around one million kilowatt hours (kWh). Three years ago, modern LED lamps were installed in the Commerzbank Tower. That saves around 800,000 kWh per year. According to the Federal Statistical Office, the average annual energy consumption per household in Germany is around 17,700 kWh per year. Savings of 1.8 million kWh could cover the energy needs of almost 100 households in Germany.

The bank also points out that the money house does not use hot water when washing hands in most sanitary rooms in Germany. Treated waste water from the cooling towers is used to flush the toilets in the Commerzbank Tower.

Growing pressure to save energy

The pressure on companies to quickly implement energy-saving measures is increasing – also from politicians. In an interview with the editorial network Germany last month, Federal Minister of Economics Robert Habeck (Greens) said that it would not be possible to heat entire office towers to more than 20 degrees if only three people were sitting inside. It would be fatal to heat offices until 11 p.m. and at the same time destroy entire branches of industry. The increased use of the home office is also seen as a possible means of saving energy in the offices.

According to data from the German Energy Agency (dena), the total energy consumption of all office and administration buildings for heating, hot water, lighting and cooling in 2018 was around 65 terawatt hours a year. The average energy consumption in office buildings is 136 kWh per square meter. In 2013, most of the energy in the offices was still used for room heating – with a share of 70 percent. 13 percent of the energy requirement was due for lighting and eleven percent for information and communication technology.

TeamViewer checks light saving measures

The Swabian software manufacturer TeamViewer works in the latter area. The company's program can be used to access other screens remotely. In the course of the impending supply crisis with energy and gas, the company wants to contribute its part to the savings, says TeamViewer to tagesschau.de.

A number of measures are currently being examined with which acute savings can be achieved. This includes, for example, reduced controllability of air conditioning systems, light-saving measures and the adjustment of the maximum heating output. The company is also in close contact with landlords, administrators and building technicians in order to "further reduce our energy consumption".

With the hybrid working model and up to 50 percent home office, according to TeamViewer, it also helps to reduce energy consumption through less commuting. However, the company has been measuring and reducing its own CO2 footprint and energy consumption for years. In the past year alone, emissions that can be directly attributed to office buildings and employees have been reduced by a third compared to the previous year.

Depending on when the office property was built, the energy demand from fossil sources can vary greatly. Older office and administration properties built before 2005 are still largely operated with oil and gas (77 percent). For the newer properties, however, the proportion of fossil fuels has fallen to almost half. In total, there were around 324,000 office and administration buildings in Germany in 2015 with a total floor space of 382 million square meters.

Measures catalog of Deutsche Bank

Deutsche Bank has also defined a catalog of measures that can be implemented depending on the scenario. The decisions of the Federal Network Agency would have an important influence on this. "We support the federal government in its efforts to save energy in the short and long term and have already adapted our real estate portfolio to the changed requirements in the past few months," says the bank. This is especially true in the area of mobile working.

BMW sensitizes employees

The Munich-based automotive group BMW is currently preparing for a possible gas shortage that would hit German industry hard. According to the DAX group, this involves both its own locations and the supplier network. In principle, further savings in gas consumption are possible for a limited period of time under certain conditions – without endangering the security of supply of the German locations. As far as its own offices are concerned, BMW was more covered. There were a lot of internal discussions about it. "But of course, independently of this, we have made the employees aware of the need to save energy."

A company told tagesschau.de that many measures affecting the workplace require the approval of the works council. Simply reducing the temperature is therefore not always that quick and easy.

Frankfurt Airport wants to save 15 percent energy

Companies like the airport operator Fraport are becoming more specific. Press spokesman Christian Engel says that numerous measures are currently being worked on to save energy in the short to medium term. This should reduce overall energy consumption by around 15 percent. Some measures have already been implemented. The circulating air supply in the terminals has already been reduced. "As a result, less warm air penetrates in the summer, which reduces the effort involved in air conditioning." The systems that are not absolutely necessary for flight operations will also be switched off, according to Engel.

However, the coming winter is already firmly in sight. Then the measures will focus on using less heating energy. To do this, the room temperature in the terminals and offices will be reduced. However, one is guided by the minimum requirements from the applicable workplace directive. The temperature should therefore not fall below the minimum value of 20 degrees.

New refrigeration concept for IHK

In the premises of the Chamber of Industry and Commerce in Frankfurt, which also includes the Frankfurt Stock Exchange, the cooling of the building was planned using a new cooling concept. Implementation is planned for the middle of the month. "All installed refrigeration systems are brought together in a central distribution and then fed back to the consumers." This leads to energy savings of the available power output of 300 kW.

In the coming months, the IHK has planned further energy-saving measures. This includes the conversion of the ventilation systems and a new building control system to optimize the ventilation and cooling systems. In winter, the ventilation systems should only be operated as required, for example in large event rooms. The plan is to reduce the basic output by 300 kW.

Energy bonus for Deutsche Bahn employees

The mobility group Deutsche Bahn also relies on motivating its employees when it comes to saving energy. As an incentive, the employees each receive an energy bonus of 100 euros – if more energy is saved, the railway tops up the extra payment to 150 euros. The energy fun measures can relate to heating, the use of air conditioning or refueling.

According to their own statements, the annual electricity requirement of Deutsche Bahn is ten billion kWh, making the group the largest single electricity consumer in Germany. The share of natural gas in the electricity mix was six percent, and coal more than 20 percent. Renewable energies accounted for around 62 percent last year.

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