19 Sep 2023, 13:41
Carolina Kyllmann

Fossil heating phase out and energy efficiency key for decarbonising Germany's buildings – report

Clean Energy Wire

To reach its climate targets, Germany's building sector must phase out the use of fossil fuel boilers and introduce minimum efficiency standards for existing buildings, a report by the Institute for Applied Ecology (Öko-Institut) has found. Additionally, the expansion of district heating networks and their switch to renewable energies are also a central element of the heating transition, according to the report. The authors, commissioned by WWF, calculated two scenarios based on the impact of existing (as of May 2023) and of new policy measures are set to have on emission reductions. "Even in the target scenario with additional instruments, the 2030 target will be missed because most measures only take effect in the medium term," the authors concluded. However, the goal of climate neutrality in 2045 would be achieved in the target scenario.

"The main role for climate protection is played by the 65 percent-rule from the amendment to the Building Energy Act (GEG)," the authors wrote, referring to a law recently passed by parliament that stipulates that all newly installed heating systems in new developments must run on at least 65 percent renewable energy sources from 2024. "This measure initiates the phase-out of fossil energies in the heating sector." They recommended policymakers to consider the effects of policy instruments at local and regional levels, to ensure that the transition will be socially responsible. This required funding instruments to distinguish between owners and renters: with socially-graded subsidies for owners for example, and heating modernisation costs being shared fairly between tenants and landlords.

Fossil fuel-powered heating systems by far are still the norm in Germany's homes, with over 80 percent of the country's heating demand being supplied by them. Decarbonising the building sector – which has consistently missed its emission reduction targets in the past years – is key for achieving Germany's overall climate targets as well as reducing import dependencies on fossil gas.

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