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Municipal utilities want to play a decisive role in the heating transition

Photo: Marijan Murat / dpa

Own heat pump, connection to the district heating network or maybe even hydrogen as an energy source? For property owners, there are a number of questions in view of the planned heating turnaround. Municipal utilities want to play a decisive role. From the point of view of the municipal utilities, an obligation for homeowners to connect to the heating network is an option.

It is "not far-fetched to talk about an obligation for households to connect to an existing heating network," said Ingbert Liebing, chief executive of the Association of Municipal Companies (VKU), the "Neue Osnabrücker Zeitung".

Compared to individual solutions such as heat pumps or gas boilers, heating networks have the advantage that when switching to renewable energy sources, "all connected buildings benefit in one fell swoop" and homeowners are rid of their heating worries.

In addition to a reform of the Building Energy Act – the so-called Heating Act – the traffic light coalition is also planning a reform of municipal heat planning.

According to the draft law, states and municipalities are to present concrete plans in the coming years on how they want to convert their heating infrastructure to be climate-neutral. This is intended to give citizens an important orientation by finding out whether their house will soon be connected to a district or local heating network or whether they should convert their heating system to a heat pump in the foreseeable future.

Municipal utilities do not want competition from heat pumps

"Where municipal planning provides for heating networks, the state must not promote the installation of heat pumps at the same time," said Liebing. He advises "all households that are considering changing their heating: Please keep your feet still and wait with the decision!" If you are in a hurry, you can ask the municipal supplier whether district heating could become an option or not.

The VKU expects that in the future, 40 to 45 percent of heating in Germany will be with district heating, 40 percent with heat pumps and at most 15, at most 20 percent with hydrogen, Liebing told the NOZ. "We are certain that all existing district heating networks can become climate-neutral by 2045 – in many places much earlier."

District heating scores with its relatively high efficiency – but CO2 emissions depend on how they are generated. From a climate point of view, operation with renewable energy, such as geothermal energy, is optimal.

In general, the higher the share of renewables in heat generation, the more climate-friendly a heating system is.

The building sector, together with the transport sector, is one of the problem areas for climate protection in Germany. In 2021 and 2022, the emission targets for heating energy were missed.

With the Building Energy Act (GEG), which is currently the subject of fierce debate, the German government now wants to take countermeasures in order to meet the climate targets in the long term.

According to analyses by the Federal Environment Agency (UBA) from 2018, CO2 emissions from oil heating systems are the highest at 318 grams per kilowatt hour. Natural gas is the second worst at 247 grams per kilowatt hour. Wood or pellet heating systems perform much better, but their particulate matter emissions are particularly high.