German lawmakers in the lower house of parliament, the Bundestag, voted on Friday in favor of a controversial law aimed at phasing out oil and gas heating systems.
The bill has been a flashpoint among the German ruling coalition, comprised of Chancellor Olaf Scholz's center-left Social Democrats (SPD), the business-focused Free Democrats (FDP) and the climate change-focused Greens.
In recent months, the three parties have been locked in — sometimes public — infighting over the bill, with the Greens' Robert Habeck, who serves as the economy and climate action minister as well as vice chancellor, staunchly backing the proposal.
Meanwhile, FDP officials said they had to push for fundamental changes to the original plans.
What are Germany's plans to make heating greener?
Dubbed the Building Energy Act (GEG), the law is aimed at gradually increasing the amount of renewable energy sources used to generate heat in homes and other buildings. It is estimated that half of German buildings currently use gas heating systems.
Although the law is scheduled to take effect on January 1, 2024, the actual transition will take years.
In principle, newly installed heating systems in old and new buildings should be powered by at least 65% renewable energy.
Comment: Despite the fact that if all these systems were switched over tomorrow, there wouldn't be enough renewable energy being generated to do that; and there's no reason to believe that would change in the years to come.
However, functioning heating systems can continue to run and also be repaired as necessary. The installation of gas heaters is also permitted after 2024 if they are hydrogen-compatible, meaning that they could be converted at a later date.
At what cost?
The issue of how much of the cost of environmentally friendly heat pumps will be subsidized by the government has been a major thorn in the proposal. According to current plans, the government will cover up to 70% of it.
Comment: Which means the taxpayer, that is already suffering a cost of living crisis because of soaring inflation, exorbitant and unnecessarily high energy costs, and a recession, will be made to pay for it in higher taxes.
As for heat pumps, even the MD of the UK's heat pump supplier says that they won't work in 'old' homes.
But the coalition government also bears the political cost, as energy security and inflation weigh on voters' minds.
According to a survey commissioned by the liberal newspaper Die Zeit, as many as 70% of Germans reject compulsory regulations on banning heating fired by oil or gas or paying for obligatory replacements of their heating systems.
At the same time, the government's approval ratings are steadily declining, while the popularity of the conservative Christian Democratic Union (CDU) and the far-right Alternative for Germany (AfD) grows further.