Municipal planning should advance the heating transition

Status: 05/31/2023 6:47 p.m

The goal is clear: heating should become climate-neutral. While Economics Minister Habeck is negotiating changes to the Building Energy Act, Building Minister Geywitz is presenting her draft law on municipal heating planning.

Justus Kliss, RBB

There was a great outcry when it became known that Economics Minister Robert Habeck wanted to ban new oil and gas heating systems by law as early as next year. The heating plans have been the subject of fierce arguments in Berlin for weeks – not only with the opposition, but also within the coalition. The law is causing concern among the public. Many do not know what to expect when they need a new heater.

Heat planning against uncertainty

Municipal heat planning should remedy the situation. It is the foundation for switching to renewable energies for heating.

Building Minister Klara Geywitz obliges the municipalities in Germany to take stock of their energy supply networks and to draw up binding plans for the future heat supply. For property owners, it will then also become clear what options they have in their place to heat in a climate-neutral manner. In addition to the heat pump, this could also be district heating, biogas or geothermal energy.

Federal Building Minister Geywitz (SPD) has presented a draft law on heat planning.

The bill that dem ARD Capital Studio is available, provides for a gradual transition. By 2030, the heating networks should supply at least 50 percent climate-neutral energy, and the complete switchover is planned for the end of 2045. Large cities with more than 100,000 inhabitants must submit their plans for this by the end of 2026. Cities and municipalities with more than 10,000 inhabitants have until the end of 2028.

Heat pumps are not the only solution

Once the heating plans are available, property owners can decide which type of heating is most suitable for them. Heat pumps are not the first choice everywhere, emphasizes Federal Building Minister Klara Geywitz in an interview with the ARD Capital Studio. “We also have a lot of waste heat, which is simply there and evaporates.” For them, the expansion of local and district heating networks is also part of it, as is the use of geothermal energy. What is most suitable in individual cases is decided by the municipalities through their heat planning. For real estate owners, it is by no means a “compulsory heat pump”, as the tabloids repeatedly claim.

However, there is still a need for clarification when connecting to district heating networks. In most municipalities, there is currently a connection obligation as soon as a district heating network is set up. This is to cover the cost of the expansion. It is questionable whether this obligation to connect can still be maintained if, for example, property owners buy an expensive heat pump in the meantime. “These are all things that we will discuss with each other,” says Geywitz. When asked, however, she made it clear: “No one who installs a heat pump now will be forced to expand it in five years if there is district heating.”

Associations warn against excessive demands

It is also disputed which data is required for heat planning. The bill requires very detailed information. Among other things, which type of heating is currently in use in a building, the condition and age of the building and also the form of use, whether private or commercial. Just like the energy consumption of the past three years for each building.

From the point of view of the Federal Association of Energy and Water Management (BDEW), this is too much information. For the BDEW it is questionable whether all this data is necessary at all. The association fears that small municipalities will be overwhelmed. The Association of Municipal Companies (VKU) also fears years of data collection. Rather, it is important for the municipalities to start planning quickly. From the point of view of the association, less data is sufficient for this.

No “heating police”

The construction policy spokesman for the Union faction in the Bundestag, Jan Marco Luczak, even sees Orwellian dimensions: Geywitz wants to screen citizens “down to the smallest detail for their energy consumption, so that the state can understand who used how much energy and when”.

Objection comes from the Hessian Economics Minister Tarek Al-Wazir. Hesse is one of the four federal states in Germany that have already passed their own laws on heat planning. He cannot understand the criticism of the specifications. All heat plans would be prepared based on energy type and consumption. The municipalities could receive this information with a short request from chimney sweeps or network operators, says the Green politician ARD Capital Studio. “So neither the ‘heating police’ nor anyone else comes into the boiler room.”

Although the talks did not bring a breakthrough, a law on municipal heating planning is now to come.

Tailwind from the federal states

In addition to Hesse, Baden-Württemberg, Schleswig-Holstein and Lower Saxony have also passed their own state laws on municipal heat planning. The SPD-led Ministry of Climate Protection and Energy in Lower Saxony has a corresponding tailwind for the plans of Minister of Construction Geywitz. The Minister there, Christian Meyer, says that ARD Capital Studio: “The heat transition on site works best with municipal heat planning.” He expressly welcomes the bill.

Something similar can be heard from Hesse. It is important to the Minister for Economic Affairs there, Al-Wazir, that the efforts made by the countries so far have not been in vain. “For all countries that are already further ahead in municipal heat planning, it will be important that there is sufficient grandfathering.”

In the dispute over the heating law, the cracks in the traffic light coalition are revealed.

Union speaks of planlessness

For the Union in the Bundestag, municipal heating planning is above all another chapter of the federal government’s lack of planning. Andreas Jung, deputy CDU chairman and spokesman for climate protection and energy, complains about the poor cooperation within the traffic light coalition. “Heat planning, building energy and energy efficiency must be thought together in terms of content.”

That could have saved the government a lot of trouble. The building ministry’s heat planning should have come first before Economics Minister Habeck’s heating plans follow. Only with municipal heating planning will it become clear which path the traffic light coalition wants to take.

cabinet decision still in summer

The building minister also sees the problem. Geywitz believes that heat planning and the Building Energy Act must be more closely interlinked. “In any case, the two laws must be related to each other. There is a great deal of proximity in terms of content and they are mutually dependent.”

Let’s see which of the two laws will be voted on first in the Bundestag.

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