Environment and Climate
Renewable Energies and Energy Mix
Real estate companies are being asked to make more of an active contribution to protecting the climate (see Carbon Reduction in the Property Portfolio/Energy-efficient Modernization).
A decentralized energy transition is vital in order for the climate action plan being taken by governments and companies to be successful. The property sector will need to supplement conventional activities like refurbishing properties with a massive expansion of renewable energy sources for heat and power, particularly since it is assumed that electricity consumption in and around buildings will increase in the future. New developments and innovations in the energy supply and mobility triggered by an energy and transport revolution will have a key impact. Examples of this include heat pumps and charging stations for electric cars.
Residential real estate companies can make an important contribution to a decentralized energy revolution and open up new business areas for themselves. Their properties offer great potential for generating renewable energies, e.g., by using photovoltaic or solar thermal installations on roofs.
Tenant electricity models make it possible for this green power to be used locally. We are trying to implement these ideas with the means at our disposal – even if there are still regulatory obstacles (despite the improvements made by the revision of the Renewable Energy Act in Germany).
Demand for renewable energy frequently exceeds the available generation capacities. In order for the energy transition to be successful, we need a suitable statutory and technical framework. Vonovia is driving this restructuring process as part of our open dialogue with policymakers, academics and civil society.
We want the housing industry to be seen as a driver of climate action. Making our property portfolio climate neutral by 2050 is the overarching objective in the action area of Environment and Climate. One key way in which we can reduce greenhouse gas emissions is to use and expand renewable energy sources, as confirmed by what we learned when drawing up the climate path (see Carbon Reduction in the Property Portfolio/Energy-efficient Modernization). We see our residential neighborhoods as the linchpin of a decentralized energy revolution and are committed to continuously increasing the share of renewable energies in our energy mix. We want to implement diverse and novel methods of generating renewable energies and actively promote their use in our own properties, especially at a neighborhood level. We work with partners from various disciplines to find solutions that combine cost-effectiveness, security of supply and the needs of tenants.
Increase the share
One of the most important ways in which we contribute to the decentralized supply of renewable energies is by installing PV systems on the roofs of our properties as part of the “1,000 roofs” program launched in 2019. This will significantly increase our generation capacity in the years ahead.
There is also considerable potential in the development of efficient and self-sufficient neighborhood systems. Our focus is on developing solutions for entire neighborhoods in cooperation with partners from academia, business and civil society. This involves combining existing market technologies, such as hybrid heating units, and innovative approaches like coupling heat, power and mobility. These solutions are tested with pilot projects in our portfolio.
The purchase of certified green electricity to supply communal areas is another part of our climate strategy.
Vonovia enables its own tenants to buy certified electricity from renewable energy sources via its own electricity distribution company (VESG) so that they can reduce their carbon footprint. In the medium and long term Vonovia is counting on implementing concepts for supplying energy to its own buildings. Our objective is to maximize the share of energy we produce ourselves for the benefit of our customers and the environment, and also to use it for our housing-related services, e.g., e-mobility.
Austria is aiming for climate neutrality by 2040. Our plan in this country involves supplying heat from sustainable energy sources from the public supply network (e.g., district heating in Vienna). We are focusing on an energy mix that includes a significant proportion of renewable energy sources for new buildings. We want to avoid changing the fuel source at a later date as this could involve additional switching costs for residents. This will also ensure that our apartments stay attractive and above all affordable over the long term.
Organizational Establishment in the Company
All activities relating to renewable energies and energy distribution are organized in the Value-add business area and are managed by a chief representative who reports directly to the CEO of Vonovia SE. Energy sales, through which our customers can sign a green electricity contract directly with Vonovia, are handled through the company’s own Vonovia Energie Service GmbH (VESG). The Innovation & Business Building area is responsible for energy supply innovation and research. A separate unit focuses on neighborhood-based systems and liaises with other research projects in the company. It is also responsible for the implementation and expansion of the “1,000 roofs” program.
Objectives and Measures
One of the milestones along the path to making our portfolio climate-neutral is reducing the carbon intensity of the Vonovia building stock to 30 kg CO2e per m2 of rentable area by 2030 and to continuously increase the share of renewable energy sources (see also Carbon Reduction in the Property Portfolio/Energy-efficient Modernization).
We have defined various measures to ensure we get closer to our milestone every year.
Our “1,000 roofs” program involves installing photovoltaic modules on at least 1,000 roofs – a target we will reach as early as 2021. By the end of 2020, we had already been able to equip 841 roofs under this program. We want to increase the nominal capacity of our solar power generation facilities by at least five MWp (in 2020 from 10.2 to 15.9 MWp) by installing these new PV systems in order to reduce our carbon emissions.
already equipped with
installed with a nominal
output of 15.9 MWp
avoided thanks to
generation in 2020
Over the course of the program to date, we have determined that the overall potential of suitable roof areas is much higher and represents an opportunity to expand this activity in the future. This is also the objective for 2021, when we intend to scale up this business area. The energy generated by these systems should ideally be used directly as electricity for tenants in our neighborhoods. To make our plans a reality, we are committed to increasing our interaction with political decision-makers, e.g., at events such as our conference on climate-neutral housing that we organized jointly with the Fraunhofer Institute and the German Energy Agency (dena) (see Outlook for Climate-neutral Housing).
Our focus in terms of energy generation is on promoting networked neighborhood systems and sector coupling. This involves linking the electricity, heating and mobility sectors so that the electricity generated locally and the heat generated can be used for the apartments – turning neighborhoods into little power plants. We are piloting innovative approaches like the use of hydrogen technology in combination with power from renewable sources. We continued our cooperation programs with various academic institutions and partners in 2020.
Vonovia is funding and building an “Energy Plant of the Future” in Bochum-Weitmar. This will use innovative technologies like an electrolyzer to generate hydrogen from electricity, fuel cells or heat pumps. The intention is to supply 81 residential units with 60% of their heating from carbon-neutral sources. In-house PV systems supply around 25% of the power of neighborhoods from renewable energy sources. We will be developing and testing sector coupling in ongoing operations in Bochum-Weitmar in the future. The aim is to combine the local energy management system intelligently with e-mobility (Annual Report 2020).
We are still working on the development of a range of scalable mobility concepts. Since each neighborhood is unique and has its own requirements, we are developing the concepts in such a way that the regions can use them as they see fit. One core element of our development work in this area is the expansion of charging infrastructure. We are aiming to install 10,000 wallboxes for our tenants by 2030 and to extend the network of public charging stations. In 2021, we will complete the expansion of up to 30 publicly accessible charging stations in our neighborhoods. This project began in 2020. The plan is for tenants with their own parking space to get a wallbox on request and pay for their electricity through Vonovia.
wallboxes by 2030 for more electromobility
We continued to expand our own energy distribution business in 2020. Our customers can get power from renewable energy sources via our own energy services provider, Vonovia Energie Service GmbH (VESG). There were some 20,400 customers in Germany who did so in the reporting year, purchasing a total of 27 GWh of certified green power.
In Germany we only have a direct influence over the power used in communal areas of our buildings. In 2020 we switched to green power for all of the communal areas we manage, i.e., for lighting in stairwells and cellars. This reduced carbon emissions by more than 17,000 tons per year.
Planned for 2021
- Complete PV installations on 1,000 roofs and expand the “1,000 roofs” program
- Pilot project for landlord-to-tenant electricity with VESG
- Analyze options for PV modules on facades, balconies and windows
- Trial different energy storage systems (especially on a seasonal basis)
- Pilot innovative heat pumps, e.g., by using pit water or waste water
- Commissioning of 30 publicly accessible charging stations for electromobility