The plans to say goodbye to oil and gas heating are heating up – even in the Bundesrat. Ministers Habeck and Geywitz have a lot to explain.
Several country representatives have sharply criticized the plans for a gradual replacement of the heating system. “I think the best way is a complete restart. This law will not be successful, but on the contrary will lead to huge tensions,” said Bavaria’s Prime Minister Markus Söder (CSU) at a consultation on the subject in the Bundesrat in Berlin.
“In any case, it will be a heavy burden for millions of Germans,” said Söder. “People are afraid.” The two federal ministers responsible, Robert Habeck (Economy/Greens) and Klara Geywitz (Building/SPD), tried to refute the objections.
According to the draft law passed by the Federal Cabinet, from 2024 every newly installed heating system should be operated with 65 percent renewable energy. Existing oil and gas heaters can continue to be operated, broken heaters can be repaired. If this is not possible, transitional periods should facilitate the exchange. The law is intended to herald the end of gas and oil heating systems in the interests of climate protection.
“Climate protection must be practically solvable”
The Prime Minister of Mecklenburg-Western Pomerania, Manuela Schwesig (SPD), emphasized: “Climate protection must be practically solvable, it must be feasible and it must also be financially feasible.” Not everyone who owns a house is automatically rich. The law must come with a large subsidy, especially for small and medium-sized incomes. At the same time, like other state representatives, she committed to the goal of making the heat supply more climate-friendly.
“I’m also unsure what to do,” admitted Saxony-Anhalt’s Prime Minister Reiner Haseloff, who said he was waiting for a new heater himself. You stand for climate protection, and the building sector must do its part, said the CDU politician. But it doesn’t work without public acceptance: “Many people worry that in the worst case they will have to sell their own house or apartment later because they won’t be able to bear the costs of changing the heating system.”
The Brandenburg Infrastructure Minister Guido Beermann (CDU) said that many citizens were extremely insecure and feared that they would be financially overwhelmed. “For many families, the question is currently whether the dream of owning a home will turn into an economic nightmare. Many pensioners fear that the old-age provision associated with their house is at risk.” The Thuringian State Chancellery Minister Benjamin-Immanuel Hoff (left) missed an elaborate “comprehensive investment and funding program”, but instead only key points were available.
Habeck clears doubts about the financing
The many critical comments did not prevent Economics Minister Habeck from first thanking him for the “factual, calm debate”, “which, if I may say so, contrasts pleasantly with a few harsh tones or many harsh tones of the past”. He tried to dispel any doubts about the ability to finance it: The money shouldn’t come from the regular budget, but from the climate and transformation fund, “which of course is also finite”. However, the necessary money can be found there through reallocations and advances.
The installation of a heat pump pays off after eighteen years without funding, said Habeck – and the federal government is planning support of up to 50 percent. “It is therefore already more attractive, financially more attractive, not to invest in fossil fuel heating systems without funding over the course of one’s life.”
Federal Building Minister Geywitz said that there are “not that many adjustment screws” to reduce greenhouse gas emissions in the building sector. You can either insulate the houses so well that even when heating with fossil fuels, only minimal CO2 is produced, or you can say goodbye to these fuels when heating. Half of German single-family homes are in need of renovation. “And that’s why, in my opinion, changing the heating is the better key than saying we have to renovate everything now.” Heating with wood or biomass should also remain possible.
Discussions about the start of the conversion
One is “not in a hurry” with the plans, said Geywitz, “but much too late”. A heater will easily last 20 or 30 years. “That means if we want to be climate-neutral by 2045, translated: there can be no more gas and oil heating.” Your house is already working on a law on municipal heating planning.
The Chamber of States passed a statement in which, among other things, they rejected the planned exemption for owners over the age of 80 who live in the building themselves. At this point, the federal states would like to put an easy-to-use hardship clause.
The Association of Municipal Companies (VKU) meanwhile called for the regulations on heating replacement to be postponed by one year to January 1, 2025. It is correct that the federal government is working on the legal basis for a climate-neutral heat supply, said VKU Managing Director Ingbert Liebing of the German Press Agency. “This goal must be achieved by 2045, and there is no questioning it.” The amendment to the Building Energy Act (GEG) is a central building block for this – but others are missing. What is needed is a law for municipal heat planning and an effective funding framework for the necessary investments.
The board member of the Federal Association of Consumers, Ramona Pop, was open to a later start. “It is important that the Building Energy Act is passed quickly by the Bundestag so that consumers can plan with certainty,” she told the newspapers of the Funke media group. “Whether the regulations should apply from 2024 or 2025 is almost secondary.”