The deal to ban oil and gas heating systems from German households includes important exemptions and phase-in periods. It comes days after the country shut down its last nuclear power plants.
After 30 hours of negotiations, Germany’s ruling coalition on Tuesday approved a controversial bill to ban new oil and gas heating systems from 2024, which instead will have to be operated with 65% renewable energy.
The bill, which was heavily criticised by opposition parties who claimed it would impose “incalculable costs” on low- and middle-income homeowners, includes exceptions, transition periods, and subsidies for low-income households.
Specifically, households with oil and gas heating systems installed and running properly can continue to operate them and even repair them if defective. However, if a system has been operating for 30 years or more, owners are obliged to replace it.
The 65% renewable energy requirement also does not apply to homeowners aged over 80 or on low incomes. In those cases, the new law only applies if their house is inherited or sold – with a transitional period of two years.
“We have agreed to exempt owners of single and two-family houses who moved there before 2002 from the heating exchange,” Federal Building Minister Klara Geywitz (SPD) told Reuters. “For everyone else, working oil or gas heaters that are less than 30 years old do not need to be replaced.”
Those who violate the new rules face a fine of €5,000 (US$5,481).
Moreover, Berlin plans huge subsidies to support people in the transition, with the government expected to cover 30% of the cost of installing new heating systems and a 10% bonus to homeowners making the switch before the deadline on January 1, 2024.
The new measure will speed up the transition to heat pumps, solar panels, and hydrogen boilers powered by renewable energy. It is seen as a crucial step in cutting dependence on natural gas imports and achieving carbon neutrality by 2045.
Economy minister Robert Habeck said he is “very happy” with the new bill, adding that it will “enable a pragmatic transition” to clean energy.
Yet, polls show that a vast majority of Germans – 78% according to a survey by the forsa Institute for Social Research and Statistical Analysis published Wednesday – opposed the planned law, fearing a sharp increase in heating bills after a switch to renewable energy. 53% of Green voters spoke in favour of the ban, while the majority of other parties’ supporters, including the Social Democratic Party (SPD), the Free Democratic Party, and the right-wing Alternative for Germany (AfD), said they are against it.
According to government figures, about 80% of heating in Germany’s buildings is currently generated by fossil fuels. Nearly half of the country’s households have gas heating, while about 25% use oil-powered systems.
The bill, which comes days after Germany closed down its last operating nuclear power plants, will now be submitted to the federal states for consultation and will need to be passed by the cabinet before coming into force.
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