Top Ten Highlights of Cleantech in Heidelberg, Germany

Heidelberg, Germany has been seen as at the top of environmental protection throughout Europe as it has reduced greenhouse gas emissions by more than 15,000 tons annually in municipal buildings since the year 1993. Furthermore, the city developed a complete energy management system that has allowed for the reduction in carbon dioxide emissions from a number of municipal buildings and university facilities. The goal is to completely decrease carbon dioxide emissions by 20 percent by the year 2015.

1) Heidelberg’s Integrated Approach to Environmental Protection. Heidelberg has been consistently committed to the German government’s climate protection targets and all the measures that have been created to do so. Since the 1990s, Heidelberg has been worked to improve energy efficiency and the environment throughout the entire value-added chain. This includes all aspects of product manufacturing and development to machinery operation. According to Stephen Plenz, member of the management board responsible for equipment and environmental management, “We focus in particular on three points: Wherever possible, we want to reduce – or ideally avoid – resource consumption, emissions, and waste. We are committed to providing our customers with sustainable solutions designed to protect the environment for both ourselves and future generations.”

2) Heidelberg Always Seeking to Improve Energy Efficiency and Environmental Performance. Heidelberg is known for analyzing and optimizing processes for the development, production and service of renewable energy. All Heidelberg development and production sites have environmental management systems and ISO 14001 to further improve environmental performance. For instance, “Improvements introduced to the workflows and process parameters at the final approval stage for 70 x 100 press production at the Wiesloch-Walldorf site have cut paper consumption by around 30 percent in the last four years. In addition, a new method for analyzing and releasing press testing paper has also cut paper consumption for this test by 94 percent.”

3) Heidelberg Energy Saving Regulation. One of the items the city is most known for is the Heidelberg Energy Saving Regulation. This program aims toward the promotion of renewable energy and energy efficiency throughout retrofitted and new buildings. One initiative under this program created new solar thermal modules along rooftops that saved 320,000 kilowatt hours since 1993. Developers of new buildings need to ensure that all non-municipal buildings are highly energy efficient to receive their planning permits.

4) Public Participation. Rather than just letting elected officials make all the decisions, Heidelberg is known for utilizing civic forums for important decisions. The first forum about energy was established in 1997 which helped create the local energy agency in the year 2000. The forum continued to develop and was later named the Heidelberg Climate Protection and Energy Circle. This group is comprised of stakeholders from climate and energy sectors along with civic partners. In this forum, the participants discuss and then develop new projects and strategies for city energy policy.

5) Reducing Carbon Dioxide Emissions. From 1993 to 2004, carbon dioxide emissions stemming from municipal buildings decreased by 35 percent and from universities between 1999 and 2002 by 13 percent. Since 1993, Heidelberg estimates that more than 225,000 tons of carbon dioxide emissions per year have been saved throughout private homes, industry, business, and transportation due to the activities of the city. In 2004, new regulations were set up to achieve the 20 percent cut in carbon dioxide emissions by 2015 goal.

6) Increase in Energy Efficiency. In the year 2001, Heidelberg dedicated itself to the purchase of 25 percent of all electricity supply from renewable sources of energy. KLiBA is one of the primary organizations promoting energy efficiency by offering advice to energy users that could change the energy performance of their building. For example, local bakeries were introduced to a new methodology that helped assess energy usage and then help them save between ten and 25 percent of energy.

7) The Institute for Energy and Environmental Research. Located in Heidelberg is the Institute for Energy and Environmental Research. Established in 1978, the institute is an independent center for environmental research. The expertise covered at the institute include environmental implications of transport, renewable energy sources, energy supply security, air pollution control, environmental impact assessment and management, and sustainable development. The institute has worked with some big clients including the European Union and the World Bank, as well as BMW, Daimler-Chrysler, and Deutsche Shell to assist them with all their energy efficiency needs. Projects sponsored by the institute are located all over the world, including the United States, India, China, Latin America, and Russia.

8 ) Building a Zero Emissions District. In the city of Heidelberg, a new ambitious plan has been launched to establish a large size, zero emissions city district that will be known as Bahnstadt. Bahnstadt will be centrally located in Heidelberg and cover about 116 hectares. All buildings are to be constructed in accordance with passive house standards, as well; all renewable energy is to be supplied by deep geothermics and biomass thermal power plants. It is hoped that this will become the world’s largest passive housing area. Other plans in the area include rainwater management systems, a strong public transportation infrastructure, nature protection, and new electricity saving concepts.

9) Green Electricity Supply. Since the year 2000, the public owned Heidelberg energy supplier has been providing clients with the opportunity to use renewable sources of energy for its electricity under an offer known as “FOX Energreen.” This new offer was created in an effort to cover a minimum of 25 percent of the total electricity demand. The 25 percent is enough to run all schools in the city as well as nurseries. It has also helped avoid the creation of 4,400 tons of carbon dioxide emissions annually. The projects that have helped to do this include 16 photovoltaic systems and a biogass district heating plant.

10) Social Ecological Research. The Social Ecological Research program, sponsored by the IFEU, develops strategies aimed at solving current sustainability issues within the German and international society. These strategies include improving food supply, lowering carbon dioxide emissions, and creating new viable and alternative sources of energy. the goal of the research program is, “To promote sustainable development, that is, ecological transformation of the society, without losing sight of social justice and economic concerns.”

Article by Shawn Lesser, Co-founder & Managing Partner of Atlanta-based Watershed Capital Group – an investment bank assisting sustainable fund and companies raise capital, perform acquisitions, and in other strategic financial decisions. He is also a Co-founder of the GCCA Global Cleantech Cluster Association ”The Global Voice of Cleantech”. He writes for various cleantech publications and is known as the David Letterman of Cleantech for his “Top 10″ series. He can be reached at

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