11 Sep 2023, 13:33
Benjamin Wehrmann

New German heating law met with mixed reactions from industry and environmental groups

Clean Energy Wire

The German government’s new building energy legislation to phase out the use of fossil fuel heating systems has generated mixed reactions from industry associations and environmental groups. The much-debated law, introduced on 8 September, “finally creates planning security in the heating transition for consumers, industry, and the skilled trades,” Simone Peter, head of the renewable energy industry association BEE, said. Peter argued that the “overdue” decision will enable a ramp-up of renewable power in the heating sector, which is urgently needed to reduce costs and emissions for a nascent sustainable industry sector. The BEE head said green hydrogen could not play a major role in the sector’s decarbonisation due to scarcity concerns and existing use in sectors like aviation or heavy industry. “Only with renewable solutions – from heat pumps, solar, thermal and geothermal installations to wood, pellets and biogas – can the heating transition be successful,” she said, adding that the delay of a mandatory share of 65 percent renewables in the law had caused upset among industry. Energy industry association BDEW commented that the law had been improved substantially since the first drafts had caused a stir in the political debate earlier this year. “The regulation that has been tabled provides a solid foundation for initiating the heating transition, but a lot still remains to be done,” BDEW head Kerstin Andreae said. The most important thing for everyone involved would now be planning security to implement the first steps for a comprehensive transition in the sector she argued. Andreae added that requirements in the law for making gas grids climate neutral still posed significant challenges for grid operators.

By contrast, environmental NGO Greenpeace said the law lacked ambition and fell short of meeting the climate targets for the heating sector. “Instead of celebrating the transition away from oil and gas as a socially just modernisation project, the FDP [the government coalition party Free Democrats] mocks climate action as an supposedly socially inacceptable burden,” said Greenpeace head Martin Kaiser. The government thereby risks “discouraging the people over climate action and does the populist parties’ bidding,” he argued. European NGO umbrella group EEB said the law “puts Europe’s heating transition on shaky grounds” and represented a missed opportunity for more coherent climate action. “Allowing for the installation of new fossil boilers in 2024 and up until 2044 under certain conditions, is a crazy idea,” said EEB policy manager Lukey Haywood. He added that it will lead to higher emissions and ultimately also higher costs for customers who replace their systems later.

The new law, agreed upon in parliament on 8 September, will only achieve around three quarters of the emission reductions envisaged by 2030, the economy ministry (BMWK) said, compared to its original proposal from the start of the year. Emissions from buildings are directly responsible for around 15 percent of Germany’s total CO2 output, but have been neglected for years in the country’s landmark energy transition. Fossil fuels still cover over 80 percent of heating demand.

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