Cabinet Decision on Energy Efficiency Act: German federal government must establish realistic conditions for data centres’ waste heat delivery

The Alliance for the Strengthening of Digital Infrastructures in Germany, founded under the umbrella of the eco Association, voices criticism on the draft for a new Energy Efficiency Act adopted yesterday by the German Federal Cabinet. While this act sets out the right objectives, the obligations it imposes on data centres to release their waste heat cannot be implemented in such a format and could lead to data centres relocating to neighbouring European countries.

In its Energy Efficiency Act, the German federal government envisages an initial ten per cent delivery of waste heat by data centres that commence operation from 1 July 2026. In the following two years, the delivery is set to be increased in installments to reach 15 or 20 per cent.

The Alliance initiative continues to view the minimum delivery values as disproportionate, as waste heat projects implemented to date are well below the ten per cent threshold. It is of the view that a realistic catalogue of preconditions for waste heat projects is necessary. Successful utilisation of waste heat can only take place under the condition and on the basis of a site-specific analysis of the feasibility and implementation of waste heat projects.

Dr. Béla Waldhauser, Spokesperson of the Alliance for the Strengthening of Digital Infrastructures in Germany, has the following to say on the matter:

“The Energy Efficiency Act is simply not feasible in this form. Seasonal fluctuations between summer and winter waste heat consumption are completely disregarded and, what’s more, run counter to supply and demand. Let me cite an example from my waste heat project entitled Franky, (formerly Westville) in Frankfurt: I can supply waste heat here primarily only in winter, since there is hardly any demand for heating in summer. With around 3,000 people, I only achieve an Energy Reuse Factor (ERF) of two per cent here, which is well below the required ten per cent.”

The eco Alliance calls for heating network operators and property owners to be more involved as consumers. This is the only way that the waste heat that is made available can actually be purchased.

The members of the Alliance initiative are also critical of the repercussions of the efficiency requirements on existing data centres and existing contracts provided for in the act. “Some data centres, especially SMEs, are threatened with closure as a result, while others will be displaced abroad,” Waldhauser goes on to say. “I therefore appeal to all members of the German Bundestag to intensively review the Energy Efficiency Act.”

Bela Waldhauser