Germany’s planned ban on new fossil heaters looks set to be defeated by staunch parliament opposition and could take as long as 2030 to come fully into effect.
In 2021, the German government agreed to require new heaters to run on 65% renewable energy from 2025 – a de-facto ban on fossil boilers running on natural gas. When Russia invaded Ukraine, and Germany’s gas supply became tight, the date was pulled forward by a year.
But the liberal FDP party, a junior member in Germany’s three-party coalition which is dominated by the social democrats and the greens, was never a fan of the proposal.
A draft law to implement the ban was leaked to the press in March, sparking controversy within the coalition, which spent 30 hours in a meeting to fix the situation. Ultimately, the government endorsed the 2024 ban – although the FDP disavowed the deal within minutes.
Now, Germany’s two legislatures – the parliament and the Bundesrat representing the country’s 16 federal states – are currently examining the law. The Bundesrat is adamant that the 2024 ban is too early, while the FDP has vowed to change the law as much as possible in the lower house.
What is almost certain now is that the 2024 start date for the ban will not go ahead.
That much became clear from the annual meeting of Germany’s powerful landlord association Haus & Grund. Germany, unlike other EU states, is a renters’ country. More than half of the population rent, making the country a landlord’s paradise.
The prospect of a boiler ban caused “pure desperation” among his members, explained Kai Warnecke, the landlord association chief, who spoke in Berlin on Thursday (11 May). He himself recently gained some notoriety for suing political activists in Berlin for defamation.
At a landlords’ association gathering, Green MP Christina-Johanne Schröder was booed while trying to communicate the party line on the boiler ban.
She explained that no heaters will be forcibly removed and biomass can be installed in existing buildings. But landlords were not happy and they can count on support from the smallest party in the German government: the FDP.
The law’s architect, top-level official Patrick Graichen – who is currently embroiled in a cronyism affair – cancelled his participation at the last minute.
Time for a delay
“When exactly the [boiler ban] law enters into force is of secondary importance,” explains Lukas Köhler, deputy chief of the Bundestag-FDP.
“It is important that the [boiler ban] is good and practicable to implement – otherwise, climate protection will not be helped,” added Köhler who is considered to be among the most progressive voices in the FDP on climate issues.
In theory, Germany’s boiler ban seeks to ensure that future heating purchases have a credible pathway to climate neutrality.
A favoured technology is heat pumps – the cornerstone of clean heating – but the law also allows for connecting to district heating and allows for heating with hydrogen, although in a very limited way. Existing homes may switch to biomass, too.
One essential part of the puzzle, municipal heat plans, are missing.
The boiler ban is “not yet synchronised” with municipal heat planning, noted Köhler – something his party aims to change in parliament. “Do we have to do that? Yes,” he told the landlord association.
In practice, tying the boiler ban to municipal heat plans could delay its full implementation until 2030 when insiders expect a hard deadline to complete them.
The fight for a workable compromise to ensure the necessary climate savings is currently underway. By 2030, the boiler ban must reduce CO2 emissions by a total of 40 million tonnes, according to the government’s plan.
Germany’s Vice-Chancellor Robert Habeck has signalled some openness to delay the law. During the negotiations, it may be “just as relevant to think about starting later or starting a bit later,” he told Deutschlandfunk on 8 May.
German states weigh in
Another group that would like to see the law delayed are Germany’s “Länders”, the 16 federal states that make up the country.
A draft of their recommendations, seen by Euractiv, sees the states insist on the boiler ban starting in 2027 instead of 2024.
The states also insist that biomass heating be allowed in newly constructed homes too.
The Bundesrat, where the states get their say, is the main avenue for the opposition centre-right CDU/CSU to influence Berlin politics. They are slated to discuss the law on Friday (12 May), a