17 Oct 2023, 13:41
Carolina Kyllmann

Heating sector representatives call for cutting bureaucracy in Germany's municipal heating act

Clean Energy Wire

Relevant stakeholders at a parliamentary hearing on 16 October called for more financial resources and less bureaucracy for the decarbonisation of Germany's heating grids. The country's parliament is ironing out the details of a national municipal heat planning law, which is closely linked to the country's Buildings Energy Act, a law to phase out oil and gas boilers which caused much controversy over the summer. Both bills are intended to reduce emissions from the heating sector, and while experts agree that the municipal heating act must come quickly, there are different opinions over deadlines, targets and suitable heating sources.

Heating networks (also known as district heating) should be classified as being an "overriding public interest" to speed up their planning process, said representatives from the associations of towns and municipalities (DStGB), of cities (DST) and of counties (DLT). They also called for deadlines for "heat plans" – detailing how local authorities are going to transition to climate-neutral heating systems in their jurisdictions – to be extended by six months, as careful planning requires more time. The deadline is currently set for mid-2026 and mid-2028, respectively, depending on the city's size. Climate Action Germany (DUH) warned against further weakening targets after the targeted share of renewables in heating grids was taken down from 50 percent to 30 percent by 2030. Simon Müller, director for Germany at think tank Agora Energiewende, called for financing and resources for the conversion of heating systems to be secured at the municipal level.

Biomass should play a more important role in the decarbonisation of Germany's heating sector, the Social Democrats (SPD) and the Free Democrats (FDP) had said during negotiations last week. "We will work to ensure that the discrimination against biomass is withdrawn," Daniel Föst from the FDP said, highlighting the need for "technology openness" in the bill. Verena Hubertz, from the SPD, also said heat networks should use the potential of biogas.

Fossil fuels still cover over 80 percent of heating demand in the country. Germany wants to connect 100,000 buildings to district heating annually to bring the sector closer to its climate targets. According to industry lobby group AGFW, district heating could help to decarbonise up to 20 million of Germany’s roughly 43 million households if the government introduced the right subsidies and framework conditions. 

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