With a verified greenhouse gas balance: HZB aims to become greenhouse gas neutral by 2035


The purchase of scientific equipment has an impact on the greenhouse gas balance, but is also necessary to conduct cutting-edge research.

The purchase of scientific equipment has an impact on the greenhouse gas balance, but is also necessary to conduct cutting-edge research. © Silvia Steinbach

HZB is aware of its social responsibility. Now, HZB’s Greenhouse Gas Report is here, after being externally verified, and identifies the main sources of emissions. The report provides the basis for significantly reducing greenhouse gas emissions.

HZB has set itself the goal of becoming greenhouse gas neutral by 2035. With help of the Berlin Energy Agency, HZB has captured its greenhouse gas emissions. For that, HZB used the internationally recognised Greenhouse Gas Protocol standard from 2021. The resulting Greenhouse Gas Report of HZB was meticulously reviewed and certified by independent specialists from GUTcert. The certificate was issued to HZB on the 17th of October 2023. This makes HZB the first centre in the Helmholtz Association to have a verified greenhouse gas balance according to the Green House Gas Protocol. Many measures for improving the ecological footprint are already being implemented and new areas of action were developed.

The greenhouse gas balance of HZB

HZB operates large-scale research infrastructures such as the BESSY II accelerator and many laboratories for energy research. “With our research, we contribute to the development of materials and technologies for a climate-friendly, secure energy supply of the future. Our research requires energy and causes emission of greenhouse gases. In the HZB strategy, we explicitly acknowledge our social responsibility for these emissions. The greenhouse gas balance is an incentive for us to continue making sensible savings,” says the scientific director of HZB, Prof. Bernd Rech.

According to the greenhouse gas balance, HZB’s greenhouse gas emissions in 2021 amounted to 9,900 tonnes of CO2 equivalents. This includes direct, indirect and upstream emissions (Scope 1, 2, 3 of the Greenhouse Gas Protocol – see notes*). HZB’s biggest sources of pollution have been identified as heating, (new) buildings, the purchase of scientific facilities and operational equipment, followed by staff commuting and the consumption of electricity in some buildings at the HZB side in Berlin-Adlershof.

An honest approach to measuring emissions

An honest approach was taken in drawing up the greenhouse gas balance. HZB opted to account for upstream emissions, which is not obligatory according to the Greenhouse Gas Protocol. An example for that is the the purchase of green electricity. “Our approach was not to make the carbon footprint look good. Rather, we set out to achieve a realistic account of the emissions we cause,” says the climate and energy manager of HZB, Carina Hanke.

Once HZB’s emissions were measured, the data was verified by an independent environmental verifier for emissions reporting (GUTcert). “The data basis was checked down to the last detail in the on-site verification. The identified rectifications greatly improved the quality of the greenhouse gas report,” says Carina Hanke.

Michael Geißler, Managing Director of the Berliner Energieagentur, adds: “Whether a private or public company, research institution or social institution: when organisations set out on the path towards climate neutrality, a greenhouse gas balance is the first step. Our analysis of the data has shown that HZB has already embarked on this path and has implemented a number of important measures to reduce CO2 emissions in recent years.”

Significant emissions savings achieved since 2021

HZB has already taken many measures since 2021: for example, the heat supply at the Wannsee site was switched to biomethane in January 2022 and the vehicle fleet was modernised. Important fields of action for the coming years have already been identified, including reducing energy consumption, using resources sparingly, promoting climate-friendly procurement, climate-neutral new buildings and optimising commuter traffic.

Notes on measuring emissions

The Greenhouse Gas Protocol categorises emissions into different areas, called scopes. Scope 1 covers direct emissions (e.g. vehicle fleets, direct emissions of gases). Scope 2 encompasses indirect emissions (e.g. electricity, heating supplies). Upstream emissions, e.g. from the purchase of scientific equipment, new buildings or staff commuting, are all grouped into Scope 3. Including this last scope in the greenhouse gas balance is optional. 

The verification certificate for the greenhouse gas balance was issued by GUTcert on 16 October 2023. In accordance with the Greenhouse Gas Protocol, two methods are used to calculate emissions: the location-based method and the market-based method. The location-based method uses average grid emissions. In the market-based method, the emission factors specified in the energy suppliers' certificates are used.


Silvia Zerbe

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