08 Sep 2023, 15:13
Sören Amelang

Fossil fuel boiler phase out in Germany to save much less CO2 than originally planned

Clean Energy Wire

A new law for the phase out of oil and gas boilers in Germany was agreed upon in parliament today (8 September 2023), though changes to the original plans following controversy within the government means a significantly reduced climate impact, the economy ministry (BMWK) said. By 2030, the law will only achieve around three quarters of the emission reductions envisaged by the ministry in its original proposal from the start of the year, the ministry said in an emailed statement. The draft law, approved by the cabinet in April, will reduce emissions by around 54 million tonnes of CO2 equivalents by 2030, the ministry said, based on estimates by the Institute for Applied Ecology (Öko Institut). In 2022, emissions in the building sector were around 112 million tonnes of CO2. From 2030 to 2040, the climate protection effect of the law will also be somewhat lower than previously assumed, the ministry said. In a worst-case scenario – assuming that most homeowners wait as long as possible before switching to low-emission heating systems – savings will only amount to around 11 million tonnes of CO2 by 2030.

Building emissions are directly responsible for around 15 percent of Germany’s total CO2 output, but were neglected for years in the country’s landmark energy transition. The economy ministry’s original proposed law triggered a fierce debate about decarbonisation of the sector, with critics arguing that the investment costs for climate-friendly solutions like heat pumps would overburden homeowners and tenants. In response, the coalition government reached a compromise by topping up subsidies, and effectively postponing a broad ban on new fossil fuel heating systems from the originally planned 2024. The three parties forming Germany’s government coalition, the Social Democrats (SPD), Greens, and Free Democrats (FDP), reached an agreement two months ago and have since left the proposed law unchanged to avoid further conflict over the highly sensitive issue. Media have called the heating controversy “one of the greatest political dramas in recent German history.”

Fossil fuel powered heating systems are still the norm in homes across Germany, with over 80 percent of heating demand supplied by fossil fuels. Energy-efficient retrofit rates remain low, meaning the sector is off-target in the country’s drive to become climate neutral by 2045.

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