Germany’s $3-Million “Energy-Efficient Test Home Of The Future” Flops

The European Institute for Climate and Energy takes a look at how Germany’s experimental taxpayer-paid “energy-efficient home” is doing.  The home is a project by the German Federal Ministry for Transportation, Construction and Urban Development (BMVBS). As you can see, it leaves little to be desired aesthetically.

The ugly-duckling energy self-sustainable home that isn’t. Erected in Berlin. Price tag: € 2.2 million

The home was opened by Chancellor Angela Merkel late last year amid much media pomp and ceremony and is intended to serve as a model for clean, environmentally responsible living. Strangely, Merkel has recently cut back solar subsidies specifically designed to achieve the aims of the house.

The energy efficiency home – the latest act of foolery
by Michael Clemens for EIKE

In the story of the fools of Schilda, the citizen fools built a city hall but forgot the windows. So they put sunlight inside bags and carried it inside. Now a new episode of the fools of Schilda has been written in Berlin. Today’s fools are in a state of panic over the world’s energy reserves and dangerous atomic radiation. And so they’ve built a house that produces more energy than it can use and is supposed to fulfill the dream of “100% supplied by renewable energy”.

When it comes to transforming its energy supply, no cost is too high for the German government. As a flagship project, the shimmering blue “Efficiency Plus with Electromobility” was ceremoniously opened on 7 December 2011 by the German Chancellor Angela Merkel and a Federal Minsiter, and has been recently occupied by a test family.

Federal Minister Peter Ramsauer said, “We want to show people that a completely renewable energy supply is already possible today and is an every-day thing. Our motto: ‘My home is my petrol station.’ The house should not and will not stay a prototype: What we are presenting here is the home of the future.“

In a brochure issued by the Federal Ministry for Transportation, Construction and Urban Development (BMVBS), we find the following technical information, data and claims:

The surplus energy the house produces is stored in a house battery and in an electric car, which acts both as a storage and user of energy. Both home and mobility are thus independent of the power grid.

The house is ecologically sustainable, fully recyclable and highly energy-efficient. No fossil fuels based energies are needed and no CO2 emissions are caused.”

The monthly energy need is given by the following chart:

But a check of the data yields a different picture

Misrepresented in the chart of energy demand given by the BMVBS is the monthly power generation of the photovoltaic system. In the wintertime when you have the highest demand for electricity and power, only 10% of the energy needed is generated. Using the monthly averages for PV generation in the region of Berlin in 2011, the following monthly energy budget results:

Thus the house is not energy independent and self-sufficient. By taking a close look at the daily amounts one sees that in the winter months the photovoltaic system delivers no energy. The planned batereries with a capacity of 40 kWh barely suffices to cover the night in the summertime. The necessary capacity for the wintertime would have to be more than 100 times greater, i.e. 4500 kWh (approx. 30% of the annual need). For this no technology is in sight.

The heat pump and electromobility increase the winter peak demand for electricity by a factor of 4 with respect to purely conventional power need. The niche technology of photovoltaics cannot replace a single kilowatt of power plant output.

The price tag for the”energy efficiency home” is pegged at 2.2 million EUR.

With this BMVBS project, the day-in and day-out supply of energy and independence from the power grid is an illusion. A layman cannot recognize that it merely exists in a worthless annual energy balance and that there often shortfalls at various times of the year.

Indeed the house proves the opposite: it is not energy independent. Despite the massive deployment of resources and technology, the laws of physics could not be ignored and the supply of renewable energy suffices only for a shed in the summertime.

The energy efficiency house is a symbol of a failed energy policy. It represents misguidance and deception of the citizens by ideologues, lobbyists, media and politicians, as well as a huge waste of resources.

11 responses to “Germany’s $3-Million “Energy-Efficient Test Home Of The Future” Flops”

  1. Ed Caryl

    They didn’t know this going in?? This isn’t just stupidity, this is on the level of New Guinea cargo cult mentality. For 2.2 Million Euros? Another example of, “It takes a government to really screw up!”

  2. Ulrich Elkmann

    I suspect that the “energy autarcy” and “sustainability” labels are just frills – just the current tags slap onto another example of what is the latest in the long lines of Houses of the Future that litter the 20th century. A cynic might claim that the only purpose these have served was to provide examples of how not to build a house: any look at the Villa Savoie or Fallingwater (indeed, ANYTHING designed by le Corbusier or Frank Lloyd Wright) should serve as a warning. No surprise here. But when you have two or three generations of planners who have been imbued with the meme “this is what the future is supposed to look like”, you get silly things like this.

    1. DirkH

      Here’s an example from 2008 from Brussels.

  3. DirkH

    “Federal Minister Peter Ramsauer said, “We want to show people that a completely renewable energy supply is already possible today and is an every-day thing. Our motto: ‘My home is my petrol station.’ The house should not and will not stay a prototype: What we are presenting here is the home of the future.“”

    When you hear something like that you KNOW it’s grand larceny and embezzlement. Most of the money invested goes to the useless brood of bureaucrats having snatched themselves jobs in the cosy eco institutes; the rest goes to crony capitalists like Siemens or Bosch grabbing billions of EU research funds, and they know exactly that they don’t have to deliver anything viable. They siphon off the money and let a few young engineers fresh from university tinker away, knowing they won’t be held accountable for the junk they deliver.

  4. DirkH

    English language interview with Fritz Vahrenholt,

    mentions Shale Gas and the incredible fact that the French have forbidden its exploration by law.

  5. dave ward

    I find it incredible that it took $2.2m to discover how variable the output of solar panels really is.

    We have a garden ornament which contains a solar panel and multicoloured LED light. If it gets a full days sun (which involves moving it around several times), the light will run through the night until dawn the next day. However with the typical overcast gloom at the moment, it will have given up the ghost before we go to bed, or sooner. This simple example (and many similar devices) can be obtained from DIY/garden centres for no more than £10…

  6. John

    I think it is easy to criticize.

    On the good side the house and transport has a neutral energy budget. The fact that it remained connected to the grid and only relied on PV for power generation was probably part of the brief.
    Also for 8 months of the year it produced or surpassed its energy needs.
    I imagine the brief would have been like this Industry and other users will use its surplus power in summer spring and autumn, while other renewable energy via the grid can supply its energy in winter, bio-mass, hydro, wind.

    On the negative side it has an energy use of up to 66 kWh a day. I use 6 kWh a day at home, with extra on mobility. It seems rather poor design, but I live in beautiful Australia where designing for solar passive design is very easy and I neither heat nor cool my home.

    As a demonstration of technologies its fine though. Just think of the expenditure of 1 formula 1 race all supposedly being for development of technology.

  7. DirkH

    Now I see the light… Hah… The light, get it? But seriously: With a little bit of Keynesian economics it’s no problem. Well maybe we should rename it to Krugmanian or Bernankean. Keynes died relatively young and changed his mind often, he might not approve.

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  9. Alexey

    As I understand it, the idea is that when such homes are connected to a smart grid, they are able to sell surplus electricity in summer time and buy in winter time to make up for the shortfall.

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