German climate dreams meets reality

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From KlimaNachrichten Redakteur

The heat transition was the topic at Maybrit Illner on 23.03.2023. Whether it was now particularly wise to invite the chairwoman of the Greens Ricarda Lang and Michael Kretschmer, the Prime Minister of Saxony, as guests, can certainly continue to make a very big question mark after the broadcast. Kretschmer would certainly have been able to parry the expected statements of the Green chairwoman with a little preparation. Instead, the repair of the Nordstream 1 gas pipeline was put on the table. This is called unforced error in tennis.

But Lang left so many barn doors open. She repeatedly spoke out in favour of district heating, but it must also be generated, it does not fall from the sky. She also better not mention that such heat is also obtained from coal. Kretschmer clearly missed to score a point here or did he better not want to, because Saxony is a coal country?

Scandinavia has been mentioned several times as a shining example. After all, Veronika Grimm, who was also invited, made it clear what the state of district heating in northern Europe is. However, she forgot to explicitly mention that our neighbours to the north have a high share of hydropower and that Sweden and Finland rely on nuclear energy. These are reliable low-CO2 electricity productions. Kretschmer could have scored points there as well.

On the subject of new gas-fired power plants, he could have clearly shown Lang where the problem lies. Grimm said quite bashfully that the 30-50 GW that would be needed as a gas-fired power plant from 2030 would have to be built so slowly. That, too, takes time. Not to mention that these power plants then have to be fired with expensive LNG. This then also applies to district heating but heating with electricity as a price factor.

The appearance of Hermann-Josef Tenhagen from the magazine Finanztipps was certainly strange.
He tried to calculate the price of a heat pump down, only to be slightly higher than a gas heater. He did not mention that electricity prices will rise in the future, just like gas prices. He better not say that heat pumps only have a certain lifetime. That would have been very interesting, because again and again 20-30 years fell for gas heaters as a value.

The Spiegel journalist Gerald Traufetter, who was also invited, spoke throughout the evening in the “we-form”. It was not entirely clear whether he meant society or the federal government. Fatal, however, were signals like Lang’s that Father State will somehow help in the end. The budget of a state has natural limits, she doesn’t seem to know that? So the broadcast was not really helpful in increasing the knowledge. It can be seen in the ZDF media library until 23.03.2024.

It is also worth taking a look at the fact box on the ZDF website. The statements of experts are in stark contrast to what was said in the program. This applies, for example, to the number of available heat pumps.

“The President of the German Confederation of Skilled Crafts, Jörg Dittrich, was sceptical about the draft bill of the Federal Government. It is not possible to compensate for 600,000 gas heating systems installed during the same period, “simply because the companies do not have this number of heat pumps.” 

IG Metall is also concerned about the necessary implementation Fachkräfte.In the restructuring-relevant trades are already missing up to 190,000 employees, said board member Ralf Kutzner of the German Press Agency. 

Helmut Bramann, Managing Director of the Central Association of Sanitation, Heating and Air Conditioning, warns that solutions must also be found for buildings where no heat pump can be installed for structural reasons. 

The Federal Association of Energy and Water Industries (BDEW) also warns “a great deal of tact” in dealing with the millions of private homeowners and landlords. “Homeowners must neither be unsettled with complex requirements for heat supply and energy-efficient renovation of their buildings, nor must they be overwhelmed financially. There is no off-the-shelf solution for this,” said association chief Kerstin Andreae. It is true that heat pumps and district heating are at the heart of the heat transition. However, affordable practical solutions will also be needed in the future, such as gas-based hybrid systems that could be operated with renewable gases without carbon. 

The President of the Federal Association of Free Real Estate and Housing Companies, Dirk Salewski, told the German Press Agency that climate protection must be implemented with a sense of proportion and farsightedness, not with a crowbar and not with projects that lead to social upheavals. “Otherwise, acceptance of climate protection will dwindle and the economy will be permanently weakened.” In addition, according to Salewski, the costs incurred exceed the possibilities of the owners and tenants. 

Kai Warnecke, Chairman of the Board of the owners’ association Haus & Grund Deutschland, criticized: “The draft is peppered with numerous obligations and detailed specifications, without it becoming clear how these can be implemented in practice. (…) Chancellor Scholz must now ensure that the energy transition in existing buildings does not overwhelm citizens. Otherwise, Habeck’s plans will end in disaster.”