Berlin’s plumbing and heating companies receive more orders than ever before and are barely able to keep up. All homeowners want to install new heating equipment, especially heat pumps, which run on electricity. Some will have to wait up to nine months, utilities engineer Dirk Jänichen tells DW, explaining that he can only install 40 pieces of equipment per year, along with the solar systems that make their efficiency possible.
These operate in a climate-neutral manner if they are powered by renewable energy. A government subsidy covers up to 40 percent of the costs. However, even so, equipment for a single-family house of about 150 square meters costs around 17,000 euros. To this is added, in old houses, the costs of energy sanitation, which include thermal insulation and multi-pane windows. The worse a home is insulated, the greater the sanitation measures, and the higher the final cost.
Many doubt the high prices
A new gas heating costs 10,000 euros, which is why many customers prefer to install one for the time being, since Germany still receives enough gas, and the price of this fuel has gone down, explains Jänichen. But no one knows what the price of gas will be like in 10 years. What is certain is that the price of CO2 emissions will rise if the European Union wants to achieve its climate goals. Experts estimate that CO2 could be at 7 cents per kilowatt/hour in addition to the price of gas.
According to the German Heat Pump Association, 1.2 million heat pumps have been installed in Germany so far, mostly in new buildings. Almost 50 percent of residential buildings are heated with gas, and 25 percent with oil. According to the think tank Agora Energiewende, the construction sector generates around 15 percent of Germany’s greenhouse gas emissions. Legal emission reduction targets have always been missed in recent years.
Prohibition of heating of fossil origin from 2024
But that’s about to change. German Finance Minister Robert Habeck is working on a law reform that provides for a ban on installing new oil and gas heating systems from 2024. New heating systems should be able to operate with at least 65 percent of renewable energy. Defective gas heaters or oil burners can no longer be simply replaced with heating based on fossil fuels. This is why many homeowners try to install fossil heating before the law comes into force, especially older people.
It is said that there will be a special regulation for owners over 80 years of age, since Such a costly revamp could be unaffordable for retired people. The uncertainty, however, is still great. What will happen to those who have not turned 80 and feel discriminated against?
There are many details of this legal reform that are still not clear. The need for advice for customers, but also for colleagues in the industry is enormous, says Dirk Jänichen, president of the Guild for Plumbing, Heating and Air Conditioning in Berlin. Installing a heat pump requires a different technique than installing a gas or oil heater. In addition to delays in material supplies, there is a labor shortage in Germany. In this context, the engineer considers the federal government’s plan to install 500,000 heat pumps a year from 2024 to be unrealistic.
“Politicians should have started 20 years ago to make the heating sector climate neutral,” criticizes Jänichen, “but gas from Russia was cheap and there is a lot of stinginess.” As for his company, he believes that it is feasible to install up to 60 heat pumps a year instead of the current 40. The reinforcement in his plans comes from his own family. His two sons, who really wanted to pursue a different career from his father, suddenly become interested in the trade. “They used to say they didn’t feel like running the business, but what we do today has a lot to do with ecology and climate protection. Young people like that.”