In terms of climate protection, the federal government wants to herald the farewell to gas and oil heating. The federal cabinet launched controversial plans to replace the heating system on Wednesday. A new subsidy with “climate bonuses” is also planned so that homeowners are not overwhelmed financially.

Economics and Climate Protection Minister Robert Habeck (Greens) and Construction Minister Klara Geywitz (SPD) spoke of a big step. Chancellor Olaf Scholz (SPD) wrote on Twitter: “The entry into the future of heating is done.” The coalition partner FDP, however, calls for improvements, and there is sharp criticism from the opposition and associations.

Why the heating exchange should come

According to the draft law, the replacement of the heating system should be a “central step” on the way to greenhouse gas neutrality in Germany in 2045 – then no more climate-damaging gases should be emitted and also be able to be bound again. Currently, more than 80 percent of the heat demand is covered by burning fossil fuels. Almost half of the approximately 41 million households in Germany heat with natural gas, followed by heating oil with almost 25 percent and district heating with a good 14 percent. Direct electricity heating and heat pumps each accounted for less than 3 percent.

Geywitz said the law will not result in people being forced to sell their home because they cannot comply with the requirements. There are generous transition periods and exceptions.

Both ministers made it clear that, despite currently higher investment costs for more climate-friendly heating systems, a changeover will be worthwhile in the long term.

The Key Points

From 2024, every newly installed heating system should be operated on the basis of 65 percent renewable energies. This should happen “technology-neutral”. Habeck relies primarily on the installation of heat pumps. However, the draft law also mentions a connection to a heating network or direct electricity heating and, under certain conditions, heating based on solar thermal energy, biomass heating, hydrogen heating or gas heating that verifiably uses renewable gases.

There is no immediate obligation to replace existing buildings. Existing heaters can therefore continue to be operated. If the heating breaks down and can no longer be repaired, there should be transitional periods.

By 2045 at the latest, however, the use of fossil fuels should be ended, after which all heating systems must be operated entirely with renewable energies. The Building Energy Act already stipulates that house owners are no longer allowed to operate their heating boilers that are charged with a liquid or gaseous fuel and were installed or set up after January 1, 1991, after 30 years.

special rules

There are special rules, for example, in cases where the heating system breaks down. This applies, for example, to owners of houses with no more than six apartments who live in the building themselves and are older than 80 years – then the 65 percent requirement for renewable energies does not have to be met.

In general, there should be transitional periods in the event of a so-called heating breakdown – these are cases in which the heating system can no longer be operated, the system can no longer be repaired and must be replaced quickly. Then the obligation to meet the renewables requirement should be met within three years after the heating replacement. In the transitional period, a gas or oil heater can be temporarily installed and operated.

Even after January 1, 2024, oil and gas heating systems should still be allowed to be installed – but only under certain conditions. In the future, they must always obtain at least 65 percent green gases such as biomethane or oils from renewable raw materials. Gas heaters, which still burn natural gas today and will also be able to use pure hydrogen in the future, are also permitted under certain conditions. But only if the gas network operator has an investment and transformation plan for hydrogen networks and the heaters use at least 50 percent biomethane, hydrogen or other green gases from 2030 and at least 65 percent green or blue hydrogen from a hydrogen network from 2035.

What is planned for tenants

Tenants should be protected from a sharp rise in heating costs. When billing operating costs for gas heating systems based on biomethane, landlords should only be able to pass on the amount that would be incurred to generate the same amount of heating with a sufficiently efficient heat pump.

Otherwise there is a risk that landlords will continue to install a gas heating system that is cheap to buy and tenants will be burdened with high operating costs as a result, according to the federal government. Regulations are also planned to protect tenants in buildings with poor energy performance from excessively high operating costs when installing a less efficient heat pump.

What the new promotion looks like

The federal government is planning a new subsidy system. Under certain conditions there should be a “climate bonus”. Habeck actually wanted a strong social differentiation. But there was no agreement in the coalition on an income test, he said. “No distinction is made between average earners and villa owners,” he now conceded. For people who receive social transfers, however, the obligation that from 2024 onwards every newly installed heating system should be operated with 65 percent renewables should be abolished.

The following is planned for the funding: According to a paper from the Federal Government, the heating replacement is currently subsidized in the amount of 10 to 40 percent, depending on the technology. In the future, there will be a basic subsidy for all citizens who own their own homes to exchange an old fossil fuel heating system for a new, climate-friendly one – the subsidy rate is to be standardized at 30 percent.

In addition, under certain conditions, there should be surcharges in the form of “climate bonuses” of an additional 10 to 20 percent. There should be a climate bonus of 20 percent in addition to the basic subsidy for people who receive income-related transfer payments – i.e. recipients of housing benefit, basic security in old age or child allowance. Owners who are obliged to replace them should receive a climate bonus of 10 percent – if they replace their particularly old and inefficient heating system before the deadline or install a heating system with a higher proportion of renewables.

Why there are reservations

The Union accused the traffic light coalition of a heat transition with a “crowbar” that threatened to overwhelm many people financially. In addition, nobody can say where the craftsmen for the installation of climate-friendly heating systems should come from.

The question of how rising gas network fees can be prevented is still open – if many people soon switch to a heat pump, the fees for the others threaten to rise.

In a protocol statement on the cabinet decision, finance minister and FDP leader Christian Lindner called for a “practicable and affordable” implementation of the principle of openness to technology. Appropriate transitional periods must be observed, especially when expanding heating networks and with the future technology of hydrogen.

The FDP energy politician Michael Kruse said that the FDP would not agree to a “mass exchange of heating systems” due to the rigid conversion to hydrogen in 2035.

The municipal utility association VKU criticized the fact that the complete conversion of the distribution network to hydrogen and green gases was required as early as 2035 instead of 2045. “The time for the changeover is far too short.” The VKU also emphasized the importance of municipal heat planning.