17 Aug 2023, 14:02
Sören Amelang

German government weakens renewables targets in municipal heating plans

Clean Energy Wire / Table.Media

Germany’s coalition government has agreed on a draft law requiring municipalities to submit plans for the transition to climate-neutral heating, but has softened interim targets for the use of renewables. Existing district heating networks must increase the share of renewable energies to 30 percent by 2030, with exceptions meaning many municipalities don’t have to reach this level before 2035, according to the bill – an earlier draft stipulated a share of 50 percent by 2030. Alongside green hydrogen – produced from water using renewable electricity – blue and turquoise hydrogen are to be considered a climate-friendly gas. These are made from natural gas in processes that capture the CO₂. 

“The aim of the bill is to have heat planning in all of Germany's approximately 11,000 municipalities, so that citizens and businesses know which energy source and supply they can count on locally,” the economy and climate action ministry (BMWK) explained in a press release. The plans are meant to allow households to find out whether they will be connected to a district heating network, or if they will have to transition to a different type of climate-friendly technology. Homeowners will not be obliged to switch to renewable heating systems until the plans are made public. The municipal heating law is closely linked to Germany’s controversial draft law to phase out oil and gas boilers. Both bills still need to be approved by parliament after the summer recess. The use of fossil fuel-run heating systems will be banned entirely from 2045, the year in which Germany aims to have made its economy entirely climate neutral. Heating buildings accounts for around 15 percent of the country’s CO₂ emissions.

Neither the construction ministry, which is in charge of the draft, nor the economy ministry, which is responsible for climate protection, answered questions on how  weakening the interim renewable targets will affect the country’s overall climate goals for 2030, reported newsletter Table.Media. Utility association BDEW welcomed the reduction: “This makes the decarbonisation of grid-bound heating more practicable for district heating network operators without losing sight of the actual goal of a climate-neutral heat supply in 2045.” NGO Environmental Action Germany (DUH) lamented that the deadlines for the municipalities’ plans – 2026 or 2028, depending on size – are so late that homeowners can still install fossil heating systems in the intervening years, and that the bill fails to prioritise climate-friendly heating sources: “Bioenergy and green hydrogen are niche solutions that should only be used in special cases due to their inefficiency, low availability and high costs. Under no circumstances should they be adopted as equal solutions in the law, otherwise there is a risk of massive wasted investments.”

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