After missing its 2021 CO2 reduction target in buildings, the German government wants to address the sector’s deficit by putting more funding into renovations and imposing a ban on new gas boilers as of 2024.
In a landmark 2021 ruling, Germany’s top constitutional court told the government to accelerate climate action in order to avoid placing the full burden of climate change on future generations.
Now, the government wants to speed up the decarbonisation of the lagging building sector, according to government documents seen by EURACTIV.
“In view of the missed targets…., there is a great need for climate policy action in the building sector,” reads the government document, which was presented on Wednesday.
The 9-step plan aims to put the whole building sector on track to meet Germany’s climate targets. By 2030, buildings may emit only 67 million tonnes of CO2-equivalent (MtCO2e) annually, down from 119 MtCO2e in 2020.
Germany’s 2021 target – 113 MtCO2e – was missed by 2 MtCO2e. With business as usual, the sector would emit 152 MtCO2e too much by 2030, the government document says.
The country’s climate law mandates an emergency plan within 90 days of the announcement of a missed sectoral target.
This plan was unveiled on Wednesday by Economy and Climate Action Minister Robert Habeck, alongside Housing Minister Klara Geywitz.
“This package is meant to react to missing last year’s targets in the building sector,” Geywitz said during the official presentation of the package.
It contains a mix of measures that were already announced previously as well as new ones, like transposing upcoming EU laws into national legislation.
Nine-point emergency plan
The first and flagship initiative is a ban on new gas boilers. As of 1 January 2024, any newly installed heater must run on 65% renewables, which effectively excludes pure fossil fuel heaters like gas or oil boilers.
Second, the government will shift subsidies away from supporting newly-built energy efficient homes towards renovations. Patrick Graichen, a top-level public official, famously said that every euro invested in renovations is ten times more effective than those invested in subsidising new homes.
Third, the package will include a serial renovation scheme from May. Essentially, the scheme aims to mass-produce parts for use in building insulation, a move aimed a cutting down the amount of time spent on any single renovation project, the government says.
Fourth, the government anticipates a green light from the European Commission on its subsidies for efficient heating grids. The subsidy scheme should incentivise the switch to district heating, which is more efficient than individual heating, support the switch to renewable energy carriers and improve the use of unavoidable industrial waste heat. The Commission is expected to agree to the state aid scheme before the end of August.
Fifth, the government will require municipalities to formulate a “heat plan.” With municipal circumstances differing, the government aims to have each municipality identify which heating solutions work best, whether it be district heating or the use of nearby hydrogen infrastructure.
Sixth, Berlin wants to launch a “qualification offensive” for heat pumps. The goal is to boost training and upskilling of installers in order to at least triple the amount of heat pumps installed in 2024 compared to 2021.
Seventh, the government wants to start a scheme to ensure people’s current heating systems are running at peak efficiency ahead of next winter. Guidance and support to help get heaters vented, a measure credited with 15% efficiency gains, is expected to make the cut. Other potential measures include guidance on boiler temperatures, which statistically run too hot and are thus inefficient, something heating experts have long been calling for.
Austria has also called on its population to conduct similar measures ahead of winter.
Eighth, the German government wants to immediately transpose the energy efficiency directive, which is currently being updated. The goal is to enforce the revised directive as of 2023, likely with much more ambitious targets than previously envisaged by the European Commission when it tabled its proposal in July 2021.
Lastly, the government is lumping together a few disparate measures like the energy saving plan for public and municipal buildings as well as innovation support.