using energy more wisely
Efficient energy use – alongside renewable energy use – is an important prerequisite for the development of a sustainable energy supply.
To this day, well over half the primary energy used worldwide is lost in the processes of power production, transmission and consumption. These sometimes unnecessary losses harbour an enormous potential for saving energy. Unless energy efficiency is increased significantly it will not be possible to establish sustainable energy management. This is also one of the most important preconditions for successful climate protection.
Energy efficiency is a key theme for developing countries in particular. The poor in any case spend disproportionately more on energy, and often are only able to use 'inferior' fuels. This situation can be improved significantly through efficient energy use.
Many developing countries face the question of how to cover the growing energy requirement of their population. Part of the answer to this question is that the more efficiently the available energy system is used, the fewer new power plant capacities need to be installed and the more easily the additional requirement can be covered through renewable energies.
One important area of German development cooperation's activities for energy efficiency is the modernisation of coal-fired power plants. It often makes more sense to overhaul an existing power plant than it does to construct a new one. As a country with a tradition of using coal, Germany possesses a wealth of expertise in the development of energy-efficient and environmentally friendly coal utilisation methods. The Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development (BMZ) for instance supports measures to increase the efficiency of power plant turbines.
Since coal will continue to play an important role in the energy mix over the coming decades, research work to develop new techniques for making coal-fired power plants and industrial facilities more efficient and cleaner is being continued.
One conceivable method is removal of the carbon dioxide from the waste gases, and subsequent storage of the greenhouse gas.
Development of the necessary technology is still in its infancy. An intensive debate is currently under way concerning whether the method is really sustainable and safe. Before developing countries are also able to benefit from this carbon dioxide storage, the current uncertainty needs to be eliminated and a reliable legal framework created.
The demand for energy in developing countries is growing, yet many power plants are outdated and power grids are overstretched. Regular power cuts act as a constraint on the economy. This is why Germany is advising its partners on the development of new power supply systems, and supporting them in modernising power grids and developing substations. This helps ensure a continuous supply of power, and a reduction of distribution losses.
The use of district heating and combined heat and power is also promoted, because the simultaneous delivery of power and heat allows the fuel energy to be harnessed significantly more efficiently.
Raising energy efficiency is not only a matter of power grids and power plants. The options for utilising energy 'more wisely' are manifold. These options can often be implemented by simple means, and are highly effective even on a small scale. Improved heat insulation for instance reduces the consumption of energy for heating purposes. And a simple cooking stove burns biomass significantly more efficiently than an open hearth.
Germany therefore also supports programmes in its partner countries designed to achieve a better use of energy by the end user. These can be tradespersons modernising their production plants, or private households replacing their open hearth with a cooking stove and thus making a contribution toward environmental protection and sustainable natural resource management. Several countries in sub-Saharan Africa have already launched programmes to promote modern biomass stoves, with German support.