BERLIN — The German governing coalition agreed on common guidelines for its controversial heating law on Tuesday, averting a looming government crisis for the moment.
The document containing the guidelines, obtained by POLITICO, outlines significant changes pushed through in negotiations. For instance, key deadlines are to be linked to municipal heating planning, which is targeted throughout Germany by 2028 at the latest. In addition, various options for switching to climate-neutral heating systems are to be treated equally.
The main driver of Tuesday’s high-level meeting was to pass the reform of the building energy law before the Bundestag’s last seating day on July 7. Following Tuesday’s agreement, the draft law is to be discussed in parliament this week, paving the way for the next readings before summer recess.
After a meeting attended by Chancellor Olaf Scholz, Economy Minister Robert Habeck and Finance Minister Christian Lindner, the German traffic light coalition agreed on “guidelines” for the heating law, in an effort to transition households to renewable energies.
“In doing so, we’re giving people more time … I think that is the right thing to do and is entirely in my interest,” Habeck said in Berlin, speaking of a “good” negotiation result. Chancellor Scholz said that there had been “jolts” in the coalition over the heating law. “But today I think it has jolted to an end,” he added.
The Greens and the Free Democrats, in particular, have had disputes about the draft law over the past few months, exposing cracks in the coalition.
Following the new guidelines, the law is still to go into effect on January 1, 2024. However, the obligation for heating systems to have a share of renewable energies of 65 percent will at first only apply to new buildings.
For everyone else, the heating law won’t apply until so-called municipal “heating plans” are ready. German regions and municipalities are to submit concrete plans by 2028 on how they intend to make their heating infrastructure climate-neutral.
Moreover, the installation of gas heating systems is generally to remain possible if they can be operated with eco-gas. This had been demanded in particular by the Free Democrats and had not been wanted by the Greens, who stuck mainly to heat pumps. Systems that run on wood and pellets can continue operating, according to the document.
“When switching to climate-neutral heating systems, the various options are to be treated equally,” it said.
Rolf Mützenich, the SPD’s parliamentary group leader, said the law would be significantly improved, while his Green colleague Katharina Dröge said that the law is a “milestone” for more climate protection in Germany. Christian Dürr of the Free Democrats was pleased that “fundamental changes” had been agreed. He said that the state is going to make the first step with the plans for German municipalities.