Energy: Heating with more wind and sun

Under protest from the FDP, Federal Economics Minister Robert Habeck (Greens) is pushing ahead with his plans for changing the heating system.

Energy: Heating with more wind and sun

Under protest from the FDP, Federal Economics Minister Robert Habeck (Greens) is pushing ahead with his plans for changing the heating system. "If the old gas heater still works, it can stay in. If it's broken, you can fix it.

If it can no longer be repaired, there are practicable interim solutions," Habeck told Wirtschaftswoche. But if something new is needed, "then you should no longer invest in old fossil systems." We've come a long way, but nothing has been decided yet - not even within the federal government.

FDP leader Christian Lindner is registering great skepticism. "The draft was well-intentioned in terms of climate policy, but the echo is devastating economically and socially. The plans must therefore be returned to the assembly hall and fundamentally revised," he told the "Bild" newspaper. "A superficial repair will not suffice."

In the coalition agreement, the SPD, Greens and FDP agreed that from 2025 every newly installed heating system should be operated with 65 percent renewable energy. In March of last year, the coalition leaders then agreed that "if possible" from January 1, 2024, every newly installed heating system should be operated in this way. Details of the plans, which are still subject to change, were made public by the Ministry of Economic Affairs.

What is planned

From January 1, 2024, every newly installed heating system should be operated with at least 65 percent renewable energy. Current heaters can continue to be operated, and repairs are still possible. After 30 years, however, they have to be replaced, which according to the Ministry of Economic Affairs is already the case today - however, previous exemptions are to be phased out gradually from 2026.

If a heater breaks down beyond repair, it can be temporarily replaced with a fossil fuel heater, for example as a leasing device. However, this must then be replaced within three years with a system that meets the new requirements. If a connection to a heating network is foreseeable, in which the heat generated elsewhere comes into the house via a pipe, operation for up to five years is possible.

Hardship regulations

In special cases, the obligation to use 65 percent heating can be waived if there is particular hardship, i.e. the changeover is economically unreasonable for the owner.

apartment buildings

For multi-family houses with gas heating, where everyone has their own boiler in the apartment, there should be a period of six years: If the first gas heating in the building fails, the owners must choose a heating technology within three years according to the new specifications. If they decide to centralize the heating, they have another three years to implement it.

Which heaters would be possible

To implement the target of 65 percent renewables, various technologies are possible, between which owners should be able to choose. Heat pumps should be the standard solution for new builds. Direct electricity heating, which heats with electricity, and district heating would also be possible. Heating networks that use industrial waste heat, for example, must have a share of 50% renewable energies by 2030, and they must be operated entirely in this way by 2045.

Biomass heating, for example with wood pellets, would also be an option for existing buildings, not for new buildings. Since, according to the Ministry, sustainably produced biomass will not be available in large quantities in the future, such heating systems should be reserved for buildings that are listed as historical monuments or difficult to renovate. Gas heating, which uses at least 65 percent sustainable biomethane or hydrogen produced with renewable energies, would also be possible, as would hybrid heating, i.e. a combination of a heat pump and a fossil heating system.

costs for tenants

In the case of heating systems using biomethane, pellets or other solid biomass, the Ministry assumes that the installation is comparatively cheap but the operating costs are high. So that the latter do not end up with the tenants, landlords should only be allowed to pass on the procurement costs to the extent that they would also be incurred with the basic gas supply tariff.

If landlords install a heat pump, it should achieve an efficiency of at least 2.5, i.e. provide at least 2.5 times as much energy as it consumes. If this is not the case, only half of the investment costs should be allocated. This regulation is intended to ensure that landlords also invest money in measures to increase the energy efficiency of their building.

Financial support

In order to make heat pumps affordable, the switch should be financially supported. The aim is to start the funding parallel to the new requirements at the turn of the year, explained the Ministry of Economic Affairs. With this and with reduced heat pump electricity tariffs, the bottom line is that heating should not become more expensive than with fossil-based heating, the Ministry of Economics asserts. Due to EU emissions trading, in which rights to emit climate-damaging gases are traded, the prices for heating oil, diesel, petrol and natural gas will continue to rise from 2027 anyway, while systems such as heat pumps will become cheaper as they become more widespread. The Ministry of Economic Affairs also wants to extend tax breaks for climate-friendly renovations.

What's behind it

The conversion is intended to serve climate protection, and the dependence on fossil energy imports should also decrease under the impression of the consequences of the Ukraine war. By 2045, the building stock should be climate-neutral, i.e. not causing more greenhouse gases than can be bound again.

How Germany has been heating so far

According to the Federal Ministry of Economics, more than 80 percent of the heat consumed in Germany is generated from fossil fuels. More than 40 percent of the natural gas consumed is used to heat buildings and for hot water supply. Almost every second household heats with natural gas, almost every fourth with heating oil, around 14 percent with district heating. So-called direct electricity heating such as radiators and heat pumps, which use heat from the air, groundwater or soil, have so far not even accounted for 3 percent.

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