Zoom Image

Electric car at a charging station: Switching from fuel to electricity could reduce Germany's annual CO₂ emissions by 69 million tonnes


Hendrik Schmidt/ DPA

What can private households do to make the greatest possible contribution to climate protection and the energy transition? The energy supplier E.on and the consulting firm Energy Brainpool have investigated this question. And if you look at the most important levers that private individuals can directly influence, a mixed picture emerges as far as the progress of CO₂ savings in German households is concerned.

The greatest potential lies dormant in the garages and carports of the republic. If all owners of combustion cars were to switch to electric vehicles, Germany's annual CO₂ emissions would be about 69 million tonnes lower, according to the study. The leverage will be even greater if the batteries charge "bidirectionally" in the future, which means that they can release the stored electricity when it is needed in the house, for example.

The garage is followed by the boiler room: If the many households with gas or oil heating were to convert to heat pumps, the annual CO₂ emissions of the republic would be reduced by a further almost 30 million tons, the experts calculate.

More on the subject

  • E-cars as energy storage:Germany's gigantic unused power bankBy Arvid Haitsch

  • Slump in subsidy applications:The heat pump becomes a slow sellerBy Henning Jauernig and Benedikt Müller-Arnold

  • Heat pump:Heating without flame – how does it actually work? By Eckhard Klein and Jonathan Miske

However, to put it mildly, neither lever has had a boom in recent times. The number of new orders for electric cars has recently declined. This is because inflation and rising interest rates are slowing down the buying mood, and the state had also cut subsidies for e-cars.

Applications for subsidies for new heat pumps have also become rarer this year. While gas prices have calmed down after the crisis year 2022, electricity for heat pumps and electric cars remains quite expensive. In addition, there is the months-long back and forth about the so-called heating law; The prospect of higher subsidies from next year is also discouraging interested parties from purchasing a heat pump for the time being. On top of that, the capacities of installers are limited.

It doesn't help to "tear up bills for months and then push them through parliament in a hurry," criticizes Filip Thon, head of E.on Energie Deutschland with about 14 million electricity and gas customers. We have to make sure that consumers continue to want to participate."

Solar and public transport on the rise

E.on and Energy Brainpool cite solar systems on roofs and balconies, more economical heating, also with the help of intelligent thermostats – and the switch from cars to public transport as the next biggest climate levers for private individuals. In these fields, there is a noticeable dynamism in Germany.

Take photovoltaics, for example: According to the German Solar Industry Association, more than twice as many photovoltaic systems on private roofs were put into operation in the first four months of this year than in the same period last year. At the same time, people are installing more and more small balcony power plants. In recent months, solar cells in Germany have generated a good six percent more electricity than in the same period last year, which the Federal Network Agency attributes to both the expansion and favorable weather conditions.

More on the subject

  • High electricity prices:Is the photovoltaic system on the roof worth it? By Ralph Diermann

  • Photovoltaics:This is how it already works with your own balcony power plantAn interview by Matthias Kaufmann

Take economical heating, for example: The crisis year 2022, with its record prices, has apparently left a lasting impression on customers. Private households and commercial enterprises have consumed less gas in the vast majority of weeks of the year so far than the multi-year average, according to figures from the Network Agency. This remains important, says E.on manager Thon: "The energy crisis is not over yet."

And finally, public transport: Since the introduction of the Deutschlandticket for 49 euros per month, people have made significantly more rail journeys of 30 kilometres and more. At least that's what mobility data from the mobile phone group O2 Telefónica suggests.

It won't work without restructuring industry and power plants

In total, E.on and Energy Brainpool estimate the CO₂ savings potential of private individuals at 178 million metric tons per year. This corresponds to almost 24 percent of all CO₂ emissions in Germany. "We all have it in our hands to help shape the future of green energy," says E.on Germany CEO Thon. »Every contribution counts.« The manager announces, for example, that his company will supply all household customers with green electricity under the E.on umbrella brand from next year.

However, it also becomes a shoe the other way around: private individuals only have a direct influence on part of Germany's CO₂ emissions. The entire republic can only become climate-neutral if its power plants, factories and freight transport also become "green" in time.