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The new German Energy Efficiency Act: Implications for data centers and other companies

German companies, and data centers in particular, will in future be under stricter obligation to monitor their energy consumption, avoid, or make use of waste heat and - in the case of data centers - rely increasingly on renewable electricity and use energy more efficiently. This follows from the new Energy Efficiency Act (EnEfG), which has just been passed and will soon come into effect. 

Overall Energy Efficiency Targets

In order to comply with Germany's energy savings obligations stemming from the recast European Energy Efficiency Directive (EU) 2023/1791 (EU EED), the EnEfG stipulates that by 2030 in Germany final energy consumption must be reduced by at least 26.5% (compared to 2008) to 1,867TWh, while primary energy consumption must be reduced by 39.3% to 2.252TWh.

Achieving these targets is mainly in the hand of the state, both at federal and state level (Bund and Länder) which has to introduce appropriate "strategic measures” to achieve savings of 48TWh of final energy each year. In addition, any public body (excluding public enterprises) with an annual final energy consumption of 1GW or more will have to save at least 2% of final energy each year compared to the previous year.

New obligations for companies

The EnEfG targets all companies with a total annual final energy consumption of more than 2.5GWh averaged over the last three completed calendar years. These companies: 

  • must make publicly available a list of all cost-effective energy saving measures identified in their energy audits or energy and environmental management systems (EMAS), and 
  • provide detailed data on the waste heat produced by them to a new waste heat register and potential users of this heat.

Even more far-reaching obligations apply to: 

  • companies with a total annual final energy consumption of 7.5GWh or more, and 
  • data center operators.
Mandatory publication of energy saving opportunities

Companies with an annual total energy consumption of more than 2.5GWh will need to publish an implementation plan with the final energy saving measures identified in their energy audit or, where applicable, EMAS. 

This only applies to measures that can be considered to be cost-effective, i.e. that achieve a positive net present value after a maximum of 50% of the useful life of the investment (limited to an assessment period of a maximum of 15 years), based on an analysis according  to DIN EN 17463 (VALERI). 

The implementation plan must be prepared and published within three years of a EMAS recertification/renewal or the completion of an energy audit and must be confirmed by a competent auditor.

This obligation is, however, not entirely new for German companies, at least for the larger ones: energy security legislation introduced in late 2022 (the EnSiMiMaV) obliges companies with an annual energy consumption of 10GWh or more to implement all energy saving measures that can achieve a positive net present value after a maximum of 20% of the useful life of the investment (also limited to an assessment period of a maximum of 15 years). 

Special focus on waste heat

The EnFG also obliges companies to use the best available technology to avoid waste heat and to reduce the amount of waste heat generated to the proportion of waste heat that is technically unavoidable, as far as this is possible and reasonable. 

By 1 January 2024 (and by 31 March each year thereafter) companies are required to submit information to the Federal Agency for Energy Efficiency (BfEE) on the waste heat they generate. This includes information on annual heat quantities and max. thermal output, temporal output profiles and the controllability of temperature, pressure and feed-in quantity. 

BfEE will publish all these data on a new transparency platform for waste heat, unless publication would affect business secrets or public or national security interests, in which case BfEE will only publish aggregated data.

Irrespectively of the level of detail of BfEE's publication, district heating suppliers and network operators, as well as other potential heat consumers, can still request companies to provide them with the full data set.

Companies consuming more than 7.5GWh per year

If a company's average total energy consumption of the last three years exceeds 7.5GWh, it must set up an EMAS within 20 months after the EnEfG's entry into force (or after exceeding the 7.5GW threshold). In addition, the EMAS needs to: 

  • contain a record of the supply and output of energy, of process temperatures, of waste heat-carrying media with their temperatures and heat quantities and possible constituents as well as technically avoidable and technically unavoidable waste heat as well as an assessment of the possibility of implementing measures for waste heat recovery and use;
  • identify and describe all technical feasible energy saving measures; and
  • provide a VALERI assessment of all energy saving measures identified. 
Special requirements for data centers

In addition to the above, data centers:

  • must cover 50% of their electricity consumption with electricity from renewable sources as of 2024 and 100% as of 2027; and 
  • must achieve a certain power usage effectiveness (PUE) which describes the ratio of the annual energy needs of the whole data center (including cooling, lights etc.) to the energy needs of the information technology within the data center. 
    • Existing data centers (which usually have a PUE of about 1.7) and data centers commissioned before 1 July 2026 must achieve a PUE of 1.5 or less as of 1 July 2027 and of 1.3 or less as of 1 July 2030 on a permanent annual average.
    • New data centers commissioned on 1 July 2026 or later must be built in such a way that they achieve an average PUE of 1.2 or less two years after commissioning.
  • New data centers must re-use energy (esp. heat unless it is supplied to third-party users) to a certain extent, i.e.
    • by 10% if commissioned on or after 1 July 2026, 
    • by 15% if commissioned on or after 1 July 2027 and, 
    • by 20% if commissioned on or after 1 July 2028. 

What's next

The EnEfG will enter into force one day after its publication in the German Federal Law Gazette.

If you have questions on the impact of this piece of legislation, our energy experts would be very happy to discuss these with you.


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