13 Jun 2023, 13:39
Carolina Kyllmann

Germany to connect 100,000 buildings to district heating annually

Clean Energy Wire

The German economy and buildings ministries aim to connect 100,000 buildings to district heating annually in a bid to bring the sector closer to its climate targets. “We believe that district heating can often be an attractive answer to the question of decarbonisation,” economy minister Robert Habeck said following a so-called district heating summit with around 30 associations and industry representatives. To achieve this goal, the government would create a reliable framework to expand and convert networks and set support programmes, as well as revisit regulations to facilitate the use of waste heat and reduce barriers to connection to district heating networks. Price transparency and consumer protection should be a focus too. “The expansion and conversion of district and local heating is very important in order to supply citizens with affordable, renewable heat and at the same time achieve our climate protection goals,” Habeck said.

As part of a wider package to decarbonise the country’s heating sector, the ministries are working on a law to reform municipal heat planning, which is supposed to give Germany’s states and municipalities clear rules for implementing a climate neutral heating infrastructure. Large cities will be given time until the end of 2026 to present their decarbonisation plans, while municipalities have until 2028 to identify the areas where local and district heating networks will be developed in the coming years, according to the draft law. Moreover, at least 50 percent of the heat in the networks should come from renewable energies or waste heat by 2030. By 2045, district heating should be entirely climate neutral. Currently, district heating in Germany has a 20 percent renewables share and around 14 percent of households are connected to the networks. If the government introduced the right subsidies and framework conditions, around half of the country’s households could be supplied with district heating, according to industry lobby group AGFW.

Germany’s government coalition – formed by the Social Democrats (SPD), the Green Party and the pro-business Free Democrats (FDP) – is currently trying to overcome deep divisions on a law that would impose a de facto ban on the installation of conventional gas and oil boilers from 2024. Heating emissions in Germany have remained stubbornly high in recent years, and the gas supply crisis in 2022 added further urgency to addressing decarbonisation in the sector. Different technologies and solutions will be required to make heating climate neutral, depending on the prevailing conditions in a given region, a report by the Fraunhofer Institute for Solar Energy Systems (ISE) found last year. An analysis by the government-supported energy transition research project Ariadne found that district heating networks should be planned more efficiently in the long term and operators need better financial incentives to convert the infrastructure.

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