Impulse, Sustainable Building
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An important start: mandatory photovoltaics in the state of Baden-Wuerttemberg

Rathaus Freiburg Dachflächen PV

As of 2022, all non-residential buildings in Baden-Wuerttemberg that apply for planning permission will be obliged to install photovoltaic (PV) units on a roof area suitable for solar energy systems. This applies to everything from production halls to supermarkets and office buildings. The new requirement was agreed recently by the state government. The DGNB welcomes this move, which it sees as a step in the right direction. All levers now need to be pulled to meet the 2050 climate protection goals. Naturally, this includes the use of solar energy – and there are many more options.

Baden-Wuerttemberg first passed its own climate protection legislation in 2013. In May 2020, the Green Party coalition with the CDU agreed the key thrusts of a bill amendment. Subsequently, on 28 July, the cabinet signed off draft legislation scheduled to be tabled before state parliament in the autumn. A central aspect of the new law is mandatory solar systems for non-residential buildings. So if we’re going to talk about taking tangible action, it’s important to look at measures within the context of climate protection. There are two key aspects here:

1. Climate protection means cutting carbon dioxide emissions – across the board

The federal government has set a national ‘carbon-neutrality’ target for 2050, i.e. by then it wants Germany to have a zero carbon footprint. To achieve this, industry must slash carbon emissions across all sectors in the coming years – from the energy industry to transportation, buildings, manufacturing and retail. The aim for 2020 was to cut emissions by at least 40% versus 1990. That target has already been missed. By 2030, reductions should be at least 55%. The state of Baden-Wuerttemberg also failed to hit its target for 2020. The aim of the state government with its new climate protection law is to set a 42% target for reductions by 2030. And that’s the absolute minimum.

2. Buildings play a crucial role when it comes to ‘cutting CO2

The national target for reducing carbon emissions caused by buildings is 66 to 67% by 2030, based on 1990 values. Even if this inevitably has to be an absolute minimum, it’s still an ambitious target. To systematically cut the carbon emissions caused by buildings, we will have to pull out all the stops and do much more than is currently stipulated by law. So generating renewable energy – e.g. by using solar energy – gives us an important string to play on.

Aktiv Stadthaus Frankfurt with PV panels

A shining example of inner-city solar energy generation: the Aktiv Stadthaus in Frankfurt uses areas on the roof and facades for solar panels ©Herbert Kratzel

Solar energy: an important cog in the wheel of climate protection

PV panels mounted on parking lot roofs

Making good use of car parks: solar panels mounted on roofs © megasol

By making solar systems mandatory for non-residential buildings and car parks, Baden-Wuerttemberg is definitely moving in the right direction! Using (roof) areas on large car parks to generate power is a useful way to create climate-positive buildings and locations that are at the very least carbon-neutral. Ideally they can even feed electricity back into the grid and save more CO2 than they emit.

An important starting point for local authorities: community heating plans

Of course, solar energy is not enough by itself to solve all of our carbon emission problems. You only need to look at the amount of free areas available in city centres to see that there’s not enough space, and in many places the architecture is not quite right for solar panels. So local authorities will need to work out both individual and broader solutions. This is why we also welcome the intention of the state government of directing district and county authorities to introduce heating plans as part of the goal to achieve carbon-neutral heating supplies by 2050.

Three important things that need to be said about the law

  1. Photovoltaics are worth it on residential buildings. It’s difficult to understand why PV systems are only compulsory for non-residential buildings. It’s generally worthwhile installing solar systems on new residential buildings too. When people have to buy in less electricity and are rewarded for feeding power into the grid, planning becomes easier and householders’ higher initial outlays are amortised within a few years.
  2. It’s all down to percentages. What really matters when it comes to new buildings affected by the new law is the percentage of roof area that must be fitted with solar panels.
  3. And let’s not forget that most buildings are already in place.Climate Positive: now!A systematic approach to a carbon-neutral world. Click for more information.Although the new legislation is to be welcomed, it must be emphasised that even if all new buildings are built to achieve a zero carbon footprint by 2050, we still won’t hit the 2050 target – so the solution lies in existing Yes, solar systems also play a crucial role when it comes to existing buildings, but making it compulsory by law to just take this measure on an individual basis wouldn’t make sense. Instead, what’s needed is a made-to-measure climate protection roadmap to dovetail and match key areas in which action is now needed to reduce carbon footprints – so buildings can be systematically made cost-effective by 2050 and achieve a zero carbon footprint.

    Five Focus Areas on the way to a climate neutral operation

    Five areas in which action is needed to make buildings carbon-neutral

Bottom line: it’s a first step … and more should follow

To achieve climate protection goals in the building industry we need to transform buildings from consumers of renewable energy to producers of renewable energy. This is why PV is so important and why it is positively weighted in DGNB certification. It’s also why the legislation discussed here is so crucial, and hopefully it will motivate people to keep going and introduce more measures. As far as the future is concerned, I’m confident that society will continue to exploit the potential of solar energy and that our attitude towards PV systems will become more positive. This will also be fuelled by innovative design, increasing integration of solar panels into architecture and robust economic solutions.

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