Energy sufficiency

This thread seeks to collect ideas and sources on energy sufficiency. Energy sufficiency examines whether some the energy services that households and firms currently consume are in fact necessary or indeed even beneficial. In contrast, lifestyle change usually covers both energy efficiency and sufficiency.

Darby and Fawcett (2018) review the concept. The Energy Sufficiency website offers ongoing information.

Samadi et al (2017) review the literature and define and examine the role of sufficiency in future energy scenarios. They also survey studies that have explicitly considered lifestyle change and the extent to which sufficiency can be quantified.

A trialog, scheduled for 22 February 2019, is being run by the German Academy of Science and Engineering (acatech). An unofficial translation of the event outline provides a flavor of how the debate is being framed in this case:

In order to limit global warming to 1.5 degrees, the energy supply must be radically changed. There is no question that we need new technologies and effective legislation to achieve this. But we rarely realize how deeply this transformation will affect our everyday lives. If the further expansion of photovoltaic and wind power plants is to be limited, we must drastically reduce the use of energy. Among other things, this may mean that driving and flying will no longer be possible to the same extent that they are today. But the necessary conversion also offers opportunities, for example to make cities a better place to live. How can and must we change our daily lives in order to integrate new technologies and use energy and resources more efficiently? Which things, that are still taken for granted today, might need to be abandoned in the future? What do the changes mean for industrial production and for companies? And how can we best prepare for change?


Darby, Sarah and Tina Fawcett (2018). Energy sufficiency: an introduction — Concept paper. Stockholm, Sweden: European Council for an Energy Efficient Economy (ECEEE).

Energy Sufficiency (ongoing). Energy sufficiency. European Council for an Energy Efficient Economy (ECEEE). Stockholm, Sweden. Website.

Samadi, Sascha, Marie-Christine Gröne, Uwe Schneidewind, Hans-Jochen Luhmann, Johannes Venjakob, and Benjamin Best (1 November 2017). “Sufficiency in energy scenario studies: taking the potential benefits of lifestyle changes into account”. Technological Forecasting and Social Change. 124: 126–134. ISSN 0040-1625. doi:10.1016/j.techfore.2016.09.013. No paywall.


Not energy, but sufficiency in modelling climate protection scenarios, a publication by the German Umweltbundesamt 55/2018. From the abstract (text only in German):

Combining all the above findings, initial recommendations for th e modelling of sufficiency were formulated. These recommendations are aimed at all those who work with modelling quantitative climate protection scenarios. In addition to technical model recommendations on methodological requirements, the recommendations focus on three important aspects:

  1. Model ling exercises should allow for exploring possible solution pathways in the field of sufficiency. The necessary models are to be developed for this purpose. By comparing the results derived by different models, helpful bases for policy decisions can be provided.

  2. The calibration of sufficiency in models should be improved and standardized. Ideally this is facilitated by means of a freely available and scientifically sound database.

  3. Communication on the importance of sufficiency should be improved. For example, narratives should be developed and the results should be translated into vivid images.

To complete the triad of efficiency and sufficiency, last be mentioned consistency. The latter term is what is trying to be achieved by switching to more climate friendly and environment compatible energy sources, like RES. From this perspective, sufficiency is probably the least sufficiently included dimension in many models (pun intended).

Full reference for publication reviewed above:

Zell-Ziegler, Carina, and Hannah Förster (July 2018). Mit Suffizienz mehr Klimaschutz modellieren: Relevanz von Suffizienz in der Modellierung, Übersicht über die aktuelle Modellierungspraxis und Ableitung methodischer Empfehlungen — Texte 55/2018 [Model deeper climate protection with sufficiency: relevance of sufficiency in modelling, overview of current modelling practice and derivation of methodological recommendations — Document 55/2018] (in German). Dessau-Roßlau, Germany: Umweltbundesamt (UBA).

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German Environmental Agency 2019 RESCUE study

The German Environment Agency (officially Umweltbundesamt or UBA) published its RESCUE study in November 2019. The study relies on closed analysis with the modeling consortium comprising: ifeu — Institut für Energie- und Umweltforschung GmbH, Fraunhofer IEE — Fraunhofer‑Institut für Energiewirtschaft, SSG — Sustainable Solutions Germany, and CONSIDEO GmbH. Key references are listed below and the study landing page is located here.

The RESCUE study analyzes six scenarios for Germany to achieve climate neutrality in 2050 and simultaneously cut its resource usage. Despite being closed analysis, the scenarios and results are interesting, particularly the role of personal consumption within some scenarios. UBA head Maria Krautzberger said society as a whole had to “totally change certain habits” and quickly adapt to new technologies and production procedures. For instance, under the so‑called GreenSupreme scenario:

  • energy demand in would fall from about 2500 TWh in 2015 to less than 1100 TWh in 2050 and be covered entirely by renewable sources
  • e‑mobility, power‑to‑X and energy and resource‑efficient technologies are widespread
  • domestic air travel and motorized individual transport in cities have largely been replaced by more climate-friendly alternatives
  • CCS technologies are not on offer
  • under this scenario, a reduction in greenhouse gas emissions of 97% or more (relative to 1990) is possible if all CO2 reduction and natural absorption potentials are exploited
  • in addition, resource demand is cut by 70%

The RESCUE study did not assess the economic viability of the various scenarios considered.


Günther, Jens, Harry Lehmann, Philip Nuss, and Katja Purr (November 2019). Resource-efficient pathways towards greenhouse-gas-neutrality: RESCUE — Summary Report. Dessau-Roßlau, Germany: Umweltbundesamt (UBA).

Purr, Katja, Jens Günther, Harry Lehmann, and Philip Nuss (November 2019). Wege in eine ressourcenschonende Treibhausgasneutralität: RESCUE — Langfassung [Resource-efficient pathways towards greenhouse-gas-neutrality: RESCUE — Full report] (in German). Dessau-Roßlau, Germany: Umweltbundesamt (UBA).

Wehrmann, Benjamin (5 November 2019). Study says Germany can achieve 2050 climate neutrality without nuclear and CCS. Clean Energy Wire. Berlin, Germany. Third‑party reporting.


In some scenarios:

  • meat consumption is progressively cut to 30% by 2050 and milk products to 85% — in line with official recommendations on diet
  • international flights are reduced to 50% — with half of that reduction replaced by ground travel and the remainder forgone
  • cars in urban areas are reduced to one third — with the passenger fleet now mostly car shared and similar, hence relatively little private ownership remains
  • per person living space is reduced

In one scenario:

  • economic growth is presumed to cease after 2030

Resource use is measured in tonnes of resources — everything just added up — but there are some more detailed analyses of certain materials.

UBA is to be commended for tackling social transformation in this set of scenarios. Indeed, the very rapid decarbonization targets currently being advocated (net‑zero by 2035 and earlier) are unlikely to be mathematically feasible without energy sufficiency playing a central role.

Another reference on energy sufficiency:

Spitzner, Meike and Sandra Buchmüller (2016). Energiesuffizienz — Transformation von Energiebedarf, Versorgungsökonomie, Geschlechterverhältnissen und Suffizienz — No 8 Wuppertal Report [Energy sufficiency: transformation of energy demand, supply economics, gender balance, and sufficiency — No 8 Wuppertal Report] (in German). Wuppertal, Germany: Wuppertal Institut für Klima, Umwelt, Energie. ISSN 1862-1953. Creative Commons CC‑BY‑NC‑NC‑4.0 license.