FAQ on Sustainability

  A person's hand holding a pen, making notes © Martin Braun  

Below you will find explanations of individual topics and answers to questions that we are frequently asked about sustainability in our operations. If you have any additional questions, please feel free to contact us at or ask them during our sustainability consultation hours.



Why is waste at RWTH not separated? What options for waste separation are available at RWTH?

Up to now, paper and residual waste has regularly been separated in the RWTH buildings. In fact, waste separation as we are used to at home faces a variety of challenges at RWTH, for example, waste is thrown in by passers-by, especially near the city center, or the lack of parking areas for the waste containers in front of the buildings, which also have to be easily accessible so the waste collection vehicles can empty them.

Nevertheless, this contribution to the environmentally-friendly use of resources should be established where possible. In order to evaluate the possibilities of more differentiated waste separation, "yellow garbage can" pilot projects have been and are being carried out. In particular, the locations for additional containers, waste volumes, and suitable awareness-raising measures are being evaluated.

In addition to waste separation in offices, the services offered by Waste Management Service Center – SCA) also include the following:

  • Provision of recyclable material containers (mixed: plastic, wood, metal), which are emptied regularly or on call
  • Containers for individual fractions (glass, electrical waste, construction waste, wood, metals, shavings, etc.)
  • Possibility to drop off waste at the SCA
  • Regular collection of special waste (used tires, fluorescent tubes, toner cartridges, data protection media, styrofoam, etc.)
  • Individual consulting e.g. of institutes by the SCA/waste management officer regarding the disposal of new/"difficult" waste



What type of electricity (gray/green) does RWTH purchase and what is the tendering process for the supply?

RWTH generates approximately 35 percent of its own electrical energy in highly efficient combined heat and power plants (CHP) with combined heat, power, and cooling, with the primary energy source here being natural gas. 65 percent of the electrical energy is procured on the basis of a call for tenders that is part of an award procedure, in the application of the Ordinance on the Award of Public Contracts (Vergabeverordnung – VgV), the Act against Restraints of Competition (GWB), and Directive 2014/24/EU of the European Parliament and Council.

The call is published via the German Tender Gazette (DAB) – where all information on the next award procedure is publicly available. The procurement strategy resulting from this award corresponds to an electricity purchase close to the exchange. This is in line with the principle of economic efficiency, as a particularly good price can be achieved in this way.

Physically, only gray electricity (electricity mix from different supply sources, i.e. renewable/regenerative and non-renewable energy) can be procured on the stock exchange in Germany. The control of the shares of renewable energy in this electricity mix happens on the one hand on the basis of the legal regulations (Renewable Energy Sources Act - EEG, Combined Heat and Power Act - KWKG ...), but on the other hand economic effects, such as the merit order, also have an influence here.

In the upcoming tender for the electricity procurement of RWTH, the purchase from renewable sources, physical and/or balance will certainly be more considered and focused. The framework conditions of the tender will be discussed and decided in particular between Department 10.0 – Facility Management, Department 7.0 – Finance, and University Management. The Staff Unit: Sustainability and University Governance is supporting the process in an advisory capacity. Discussions are already underway and the indications from the Operations GreenTeam meeting will be incorporated into the decision-making process.

What options are there for RWTH to purchase green power?

To really ensure that, in physical terms, only renewable electricity is fed into the RWTH grid, it must either be generated by the company's own RE generation plants within the grid, or green electricity must be purchased from external plants that are connected to the grid via a direct power line.

An alternative to this is offered by green power tariffs or using so-called Guarantees of Origin (HKNW) to make gray energy more environmentally friendly.

Green power tariffs

Green power tariffs can ensure that renewably generated green power is actually produced by an RE plant. However, this is a purely accounting construct. The physical green power share in the gray power mix does not change. It is also important to note that there is currently no legal definition of "green" or "green electricity". For this reason, a wide range of products is grouped under this term. Here, a closer look and evaluation are required. In principle, however, a corresponding supply contract can be concluded with an energy supplier within the framework of a call for tenders.

Guarantees of origin

Guarantees of Origin (HKNW) for renewable electricity can also be purchased independently of the electricity supply contract. These represent a flexible alternative to the green electricity tariff product but result in significantly higher administrative and time costs. Guarantees of Origin make it possible to purchase virtual green power in parallel to an ongoing supply contract with gray electricity, thus improving one's own eco-balance. The costs for the Guarantees of Origin are in addition to the costs for electricity purchases.

Trading in Guarantees of Origin largely takes place within the framework of the electricity trading described above. Although the EEX European Energy Exchange has been offering HKNW trading products since 2013, the volumes traded have been small to date. This could be partly due to the fact that the Renewable Energy Sources Act (EEG) provides for the so-called double marketing ban (§ 80 EEG). According to this, operators of RE plants are not allowed to claim the EEG feed-in tariff and sell Guarantees of Origin for the electricity at the same time.

Where can I found out more about RWTH's energy consumption?

RWTH's Area 10.36 - Energy Management has been publishing an annual Energy Report in German since 2005. This is available at the Department 10.0 - Facility Management website.

Why does RWTH not have solar panels on every roof?

In principle, it must be taken into account that most of the buildings used by RWTH do not belong to the University, but the state of North Rhine-Westphalia. The Bau- und Liegenschaftsbetrieb (BLB) NRW is therefore responsible for the renovation of these buildings, as well as for new constructions.

In their feasibility study, Department 10.0 – Facility Management evaluated the possibilities of installing solar panels on RWTH-owned buildings. Factors to be considered included the amount of greenery on the roof area and technology for building operations (heating, cooling) as well as the architecturally permissible roof load of the individual buildings. Unfortunately, the study has not revealed any easily tapped potential for installations of solar panels on the roof surfaces of existing RWTH buildings to date.

The medium-term goal is to implement at least ten large solar panels, each with approximately 100-kilowatt peak (peak power), in upcoming construction and renovation projects in coordination between RWTH and BLB. In addition, the potential for installing solar panels on the buildings will be evaluated as a standard part of the construction and renovation projects.

It should also be noted that the standards for sustainable construction in accordance with the certification systems according to DGNB (German Sustainable Building Council) or BNB (Assessment System for Sustainable Building) are taken into account in construction and renovation work by both BLB NRW and RWTH.

What is RWTH's approach to lighting? Are (LED) lamps used at RWTH?

The transition from fluorescent tubes to suitable LED lamps was surveyed for the RWTH in various pilot projects and the conceptual design for the comprehensive transition is being led by Department 10.0 – Facility Management. Similarly, timer switches and motion detectors for reduced lighting durations have been implemented in various buildings and are also being implemented by Department 10.0.

As RWTH and Uniklinik RWTH Aachen are separately organized, the above-mentioned projects do not apply to Uniklinik RWTH Aachen.

Who can I contact if something in the energy supply (heating, air conditioning, ventilation) is broken or not working properly, for example, a radiator valve or a window?

If you are experiencing any faults, you are welcome to contact the Fault Reporting Office (of the Technical Facilities Management. Please use the reporting form for reporting faults where possible. Please enter all necessary information (building, room description) in the form. It is also possible and helpful to upload photos of the fault.



What habits can I personally adopt to save energy at work?

You can find some simple and practical tips in the Energy Saving Tips Flyer. You can find more tips for a more sustainable everyday working life under Help Us Build a Sustainable RWTH.



May electronic signatures be used in an effort to make processes greener and more efficient?

Yes, since March 2021, electronic signatures (digital signatures) on PDF documents can be used as a valid signature for internal business transactions. Detailed information on this topic is available in German via this circular: A 2021-16 Nutzung der elektronischen Unterschrift innerhalb der RWTH (March 9, 2021).

Are there plans to introduce the option of submitting theses digitally?

Yes, at the beginning of 2021, the Digital Submission of Term Papers and Theses Project was launched. The goal is to provide a system for all students and examiners to use for the digital submission of theses.

To this end, representatives from the faculties, the students, various administrative units, and the IT Center are working together in a working group, with the project being supported by the Student Lifecycle Management (SLCM) Coordination.

First, the needs will be identified, then a corresponding target process for submission will be developed, and finally, appropriate IT support will be introduced (planned for 2022). An adjacent project will create the possibility to archive digitally submitted work.

Will the direct contract award process also be digitized in the future, now that procurement via central purchasing already has a possible digit format (eBANF)?

Yes. At the beginning of August 2020, an electronic form with a simple approval workflow was set up for university institutions via eBANF. In addition, the RWTH Purchasing Portal was already launched at the beginning of May 2020, with end-to-end digital ordering and invoicing workflows. You can also filter for organic/Fairtrade products in the Hospitality - Catering section of the RWTH Purchasing Portal.

The order slips are still being issued in paper form. Their number is set to be reduced by expanding the online portals. Work is currently underway to introduce an eProcurement system that will enable all procurement processes to be performed digitally in the future. This will replace the paper order form and extend the range of direct ordering via online stores and catalogs.


Information Overview

Can I see an overview of active sustainability projects at RWTH?

Yes, our Digital Sustainability Map provides you with an insight into the various different sustainability projects at RWTH. However, there is no guarantee of completeness – projects are entered by the project leaders themselves.

In addition, Sciebo provides an overview of the current projects in which the Sustainability and University Governance Staff Unit is involved.

I have a question regarding sustainability at RWTH, how and where can I address this?

You have several options! Try one of the following:

  • Email
  • Weekly (video) consultation hour on sustainability, Wednesdays, 2pm to 3 pm.
    Register informally by and we will send you the login details.