Germany is among the world’s leading countries when it comes to combating climate change. As part of the country’s ambitious decarbonization targets, the government has announced plans to replace fossil fuel-run heating systems in public buildings by 2045. While this move is seen as an important step towards achieving a carbon-neutral future, the cost of this transition is expected to be quite significant.
According to Gerd Landsberg, the head of the German Association of Towns and Municipalities (DStGB), the replacement of heating systems in public buildings is expected to cost municipalities at least eight billion euros. This cost would entail an additional 60,000 euros for each replaced system, which is a substantial financial burden for the municipalities. Landsberg added that replacements of fossil fuel-based systems will become necessary in about 135,000 of roughly 180,000 public buildings, for which the municipalities will need financial support.
The German government has announced a mandatory share of 65 percent renewable energy whenever new heating systems are installed from 2024. However, there will be transition periods for existing systems that can no longer be repaired. The full implementation of these plans would require about 7,000 heating systems in public buildings to be replaced every year. Additionally, many buildings older than 45 years will need energy-efficient modernization. While these investments will likely pay off over the long run, the need for annual investments remains enormous.
The planned changes to the heating sector have been highly controversial in Germany, with many people fearing that they cannot afford a replacement of their fossil fuel-based systems. The Green Party’s economy and climate action minister Robert Habeck, whose ministry tabled the proposed law, said that the difficult decisions his government must now take are the result of years of negligence in the sector regarding decarbonization. Habeck argued that controversial topics were shunned by previous governments “for fear of polls and losing elections.”
Germany’s measures to fight climate change include replacing the heating systems in public buildings. Although this investment will put a significant financial strain on communities, it is expected to pay off in the long run as renewable energy becomes more affordable and widely available. Making the switch to renewable energy a reality will require the collaboration of all stakeholders and is a necessary step toward a future that is carbon neutral.