Is the heat transition shaky? In any case, a lot has started to happen since the draft of the so-called heating law was published by the Ministry of Economics and Building. Robert Habeck's Secretary of State, Patrick Graichen, the architect of the controversial amendment to the law, had to vacate his position in the Ministry of Economic Affairs because of compliance violations. The concrete design of the plans continues to cause a public slap and sting within the traffic light coalition, which is reflected in the election results and opinion polls. And in addition to differences in content, there are now also doubts about the schedule.
The change in the Building Energy Act (GEG), which means saying goodbye to purely fossil heating in houses and apartments, should be decided by the summer break. That's what the coalition partners of the SPD, Greens and FDP agreed after their 30-hour meeting marathon at the end of March - and that's how Habeck still wants it to be understood: "It has been decided several times", stressed the Minister of Economics, shortly after he had left his Secretary of State Graichens announced. "It is important to me that we can get started with renewable heat now." In other words, procrastination is not an option.
But a quick decision seems anything but agreed. The critics of the project, above all the FDP, obviously see their chance to soften or even postpone the controversial project. Michael Kruse, the Liberals' energy politician, called for a "new, realistic schedule" at the weekend, also because Habeck had to find a new Secretary of State for Energy. FDP Vice-President Wolfgang Kubicki had previously expressed skepticism about a "rapid parliamentary decision" - in view of the "clean-up work" in Habeck's ministry, which "may require much more attention from the minister".
In the meantime, Habeck has found a successor for the vacant post, as initially reported by the "Süddeutsche Zeitung" on Monday, but there is still no sign of an agreement. Alone: Since the agreement in the cabinet around four weeks ago, the booklet of action is no longer in the Ministry of Economics, but in the Bundestag factions. And there, the specific design of the GEG is discussed at length.
The FDP parliamentary group in particular has concerns, so to speak, in dozens of versions: "Around 100 questions" have been put to the Minister of Economics on the matter, said Secretary General Bijan Djir-Sarai, who considers adoption before the summer break "out of the question". It is not known whether Habeck was able to devote himself to the catalog of questions. In any case, the SPD parliamentary group leader Rolf Mützenich was "annoyed" by the slowing role of the liberal coalition partner in introducing the heating law into the Bundestag, although he repeatedly emphasized in the ARD "Morgenmagazin" that the SPD also considered changes to the law necessary .
The day before, party co-leader Lars Klingbeil spelled out what still needs to be clarified from the point of view of the Social Democrats. Accordingly, the deadlines for replacing the heating system, social support and tenant protection, among other things, still raise questions, as he said on Sunday in the "Report from Berlin" (ARD). But: "As the SPD, we want the law to be passed in parliament before the summer," so that it can come into force on January 1, 2024. The Greens are also pushing for this, but they also want to improve the draft law. The parliamentary group presented a concept that provides for greater social differentiation with higher state funding - and promptly met with criticism from the liberal coalition partner.
In short: there is a lot to be discussed – and time is running out. If the law is to be passed in the Bundestag by the summer break, the parliamentarians must reach an agreement by July 7th. Then the Federal Council will meet for the last time, and then again on September 29th.
Chancellor Olaf Scholz (SPD) does not assume that "essentially major changes" will be made to the law, as he told ZDF on Sunday on the sidelines of the G-7 summit in Hiroshima, Japan. However, it was "completely okay to look, all questions have been answered, all concerns have been taken into account." The chancellor also obviously assumes that the GEG is still being worked on - and paraphrased the former SPD parliamentary group leader Peter Struck, according to which no law leaves the Bundestag in the way the federal government introduced it.
That may prove to be a premature prophecy. Habeck will also see how resilient the agreements in the coalition are - or not, should the GEG not pass Parliament by the summer break. Meanwhile, the Greens can hope that the heated debate will cool down with a resolution. The dispute had also caused losses in the state elections in Bremen - and could possibly cast a shadow on the upcoming elections in Hesse and Bavaria in October.