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Sunday, November 27, 2022

Renewable Heat Act passed in the Council of Ministers

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This envisages phasing out gas heating by 2040 and oil heating by 2035. But the big hurdle for this powerful law comes in parliament, which requires a two-thirds majority. The Greens hope for the votes of the SPÖ. The Viennese SPÖ needs the law, because most of the gas heating systems are in the capital.

The Renewable Heat Act regulates the gradual switch from fossil heating to renewable alternatives. From the point of view of the Greens, it is a central law for climate protection. It stipulates that from 2023 gas heating may no longer be installed in new buildings. There are exceptions for buildings that have already been approved, that have already been planned and that are under construction. From 2023, broken oil and coal heating systems may only be replaced by renewable heating systems. Oil and coal heating have been banned in new buildings since 2020.

From 2040 all heating switched to renewable energy

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From 2025, the mandatory exchange of particularly old coal and oil heating systems will begin. This applies to all oil heaters built before 1980. From 2035 all climate-damaging oil heating systems are to be replaced and by 2040 all heating systems in Austria will be converted to renewable energies. By 2040, all gas heaters will need to be replaced or run on renewable gas. In the case of decentralized systems (gas floor heating in apartments) in areas with developed district heating, the changeover should be made by 2040 at the latest. The owners of the individual usage units (apartments) should be able to connect to a climate-friendly central heat supply system.

The switch to renewable heating systems is accompanied by a funding program. A total of around two billion euros are available until 2026. Private households receive 7,500 euros in federal funding when replacing an old oil boiler. There are 9,500 euros for switching from gas heating. Subsidies are also available for the renovation of buildings. There are special conveyor rails for multi-storey residential buildings. For people on low incomes, up to 100 percent of the new heating system is funded through the “Clean heating for all” subsidy.

“Get Out of Russian Gas”

Climate Protection Minister Leonore Gewessler (Greens) described the law as an important step towards ending the “painful dependency on Russian gas”. A quarter of the gas is consumed by households, and the aim is to save this by phasing out fossil fuels. “The Russian war of aggression against Ukraine has shown us brutally how vulnerable our energy supply is. The answer to that can only be: Get out of Russian gas. With the Renewable Heat Act, we are taking another big step on this path,” so Gewessler. “Every old oil and gas heating system that we exchange makes us independent of Russia and protects our climate. Today we agreed the roadmap for this major project with the EWG.”

Biogas is no solution

The Greens’ plan to negotiate the exception for biogas provided for in the law was unsuccessful. The law states that by 2040 all gas heating systems in Austria must be replaced by a modern, renewable heating system or run on renewable gas. Renewable gas, also known as green gas, includes, among other things, processed biogas that is obtained from agricultural waste, but also methane that is produced from hydrogen produced with wind, sun or water.

In this context, Greens climate spokesman Lukas Hammer repeatedly speaks of a “fairy tale” about biogas that the ÖVP-dominated Chamber of Commerce would tell. In 2021, 0.13 terawatt hours (TWh) of biogas were produced, which is a fraction of the 90 TWh of gas that is burned in Austria every year. Even if Austria exploited the full biogas potential, it would be absurd to believe that one million gas heaters could be supplied with it, including over 400,000 thermal baths in Vienna. The gas industry itself estimates that by 2040 up to a third of the 90 TWh of gas can be generated from renewable sources. Hammer says this gas is needed in parts of the industry where there are no alternatives to gas.

Video: Renewable Heat Act passed in the Council of Ministers

For Hammer, the law is still “historic,” as he said today. “The EWG is one of the largest legislative packages for the energy transition.” This law not only combats the cause of the exploding heating costs, but also the dependence on Russian gas and Saudi oil. “At the same time, we are taking the urgently needed step towards a climate-neutral Austria.”

The environmental organizations Greenpeace and Global 2000 welcomed the law, but criticized the back door for gas heating. Greenpeace welcomes the phasing out of coal and oil heating, but it is fatal “that the phasing out of gas boilers is still being delayed by the absurd sham solution of green gas”. “The binding and clear abolition of gas in space heating is urgently needed. So-called green gas is limited and will be necessary for industrial applications in the future,” said Jasmin Duregger, climate and energy expert at Greenpeace.

Global 2000 made a similar statement. “Clear provisions for phasing out oil heating are positive, but it is incomprehensible why similar clarity is not provided for phasing out gas heating. In view of the climate crisis, war in Ukraine and the energy crisis, this is a missed opportunity. In parliamentary terms process, it is now necessary to define clear regulations for gas heating systems and to make up for this omission,” says Johannes Wahlmüller, climate and energy spokesman for GLOBAL 2000.

Two-thirds majority in Parliament required

With the decision in the Council of Ministers, the government bill will now be sent to Parliament. A two-thirds majority is required to pass the Renewable Heat Act. To this end, the governing parties will now hold talks with the opposition parties. The Renewable Heat Act also reflects the resolutions of the federal states on the heat strategy. The central cornerstones were jointly developed and jointly decided by the federal government and the federal states.

The decision on Wednesday met with little approval from the Freedom Party. “Reducing independence from energy imports is an important issue. And climate protection is a challenge – but neither goal will be achievable without careful thought,” criticized FPÖ building spokesman Philipp Schrangl. He called for further support for non-profit housing so as not to thwart the goal of affordable housing. “This black-green government simply does not manage to recognize and solve people’s problems and to master the challenges of the future,” said Schrangl.

Source: Nachrichten

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