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District heating pipes: Little price transparency

Photo: Thomas Banneyer / dpa

A pricing platform for district heating providers is intended to improve transparency for consumers when it comes to heating costs. The Federal Association of Energy and Water Industries (BDEW), the Association of Municipal Companies (VKU) and the District Heating Working Group (AGFW) want to launch the joint platform in April, BDEW boss Kerstin Andreae announced in an interview with the news portal Table Media. »Around 150 district heating companies will take part. This means we cover almost the entire market.«

With the new offer, the associations are responding to criticism of district heating prices, where there are large differences that are difficult for customers to understand. “We know that there is a problem with the transparency of prices,” said Andreae. »Comparability is difficult. That will address the wasteland now.”

Even if you can't change your provider, consumer advocates have been calling for this kind of transparency for a long time. Price overviews can put political pressure on suppliers, which are often municipal companies. Individual municipalities also have a reputation for plugging holes in their budgets with high district heating fees. This has so far been easy to conceal due to the non-transparent pricing of district heating. A price portal that also discloses the heat sources of the respective suppliers should make such procedures more difficult. It would also help customers assess whether it is worth objecting to a price increase.

Utility stakeholders also want to use the portal to take the wind out of the sails of those who are calling for stronger regulation. Economics Minister Robert Habeck is one of these critical voices. Just over a week ago, at a meeting of the District Heating Working Group (AGFW), he addressed the influence of foreign energy sources on pricing and announced a new set of rules.

Habeck also brought up the idea of ​​an arbitration board. He warns municipal utilities against using expensive district heating contracts “to serve other municipal construction sites.” At this conference, AGFW boss Hansjörg Roll announced the comparison platform that Andreae is now talking about.

According to her own words, the BDEW boss hopes that the new offer will also lead to lower costs for consumers. Unlike electricity or gas, they cannot change providers for district heating. She encouraged consumers to fight back against high prices. “Anyone who believes they are paying too much can also raise an objection,” said the BDEW boss. Customers would be protected by antitrust law.