Benefits to district heating However, affordability is only one aspect of DH in which the new government sees great value. An article recently pub- lished by BMWK praises the degrees of freedom DH brings as an infrastructure. Not only does the diversity of possible heat generation technologies (large-scale heat pumps, so- lar thermal, geothermal sustainable biomass, etc.) allow adapting to local circumstances with unmatched efficien- cy. DH enables the utilization of sources such as indus- trial surplus heat and deep geothermal heat. The minis- try’s conviction is that a mix of these technologies should replace the vast amount of fossil-fuelled combined heat and power (CHP) plants that currently dominate the DH landscape in Germany. The future CHP will be climate neu- tral; they will play a part as a peak load provider and create security of supply.

While this has become an idiomatic expression in the German energy policy debate, triggering a dynamic comparable to the transformation in the electricity sector has been notoriously difficult (Figure 2). Throughout the last decade, the share of re- newable energy within the German heating mix has more or less remained the same. What does it take to accelerate the heating transformation? Germans like to say: Awareness is the first step to improve- ment. A notion that the new Minister for Economic Affairs and Climate Protection (BMWK), Robert Habeck, took seriously while taking stock of Germany’s climate protection status. “We are currently a very long way from where we need to be,” Minis- ter Habeck said at a press conference. “We can predict that we will fall short of our climate targets in 2022 and 2023. But we are doing our utmost to catch up.” The Green Party politician is

Final energy consumption in Germany in 2020 after electricity, heating, and transport in billions of kilowatts hours, electricity consumption for heating and transport is included in final energy consumption electricity.

Figure 1. Source: own representation based on AGEB, AGEE-Stat; Status: 3/2021

Net electricity consumption: 487.7 billion kWh 21.4%

Heating and cooling (excluding electricity): 1,185.9 billion kWh 52.1%

Traffic (excluding electricity and international air traffic): 603.5 billion kWh 26.5%

© 2021 Agentur für Erneuerbare Energien e. V.

eager to triple Germany’s annual rate of CO2 reduction to bring the country back on track to reach its ambitious climate goal of reducing emissions by 65% compared to 1990 levels. For the heating sector, the minister plans an unprecedented transformation. By 2030, the share of renewables in the heat- ing mix shall be 50%. Considering that the share has been stuck at about 15% for the last seven years, it is hard to down- play the ambitious goal Germany has set itself (Figure 3). To rise to the challenge, the Federal Government has identi- fied district heating (DH) as the crucial puzzle piece. “Heating grids are the key to an affordable heating transition. They rank high on the government’s agenda for this legislative period”, explains Christian Maaß, Director General for Energy and the key regulator for the heating transition in BMWK.

Furthermore, the diversified generation portfolio shall be com- bined with heat storage of all shapes and sizes (days, weeks, months underground, and above). This shall provide the heat- ing sector with more flexibility and independence from dra- matic price shocks like those currently keeping gas consumers in suspense. A look towards Denmark indicates that this is a reasonable line of argumentation. According to Dansk Fjernvarme (Danish District Heating Association), due to the multitude of sources in the Danish systems, 90% of DH consumers have not expe- rienced an increase in prices despite the dramatic develop- ments in the global energy markets.

The advantages that district heating offers in terms of efficien- cy, diversity, flexibility, local value creation, and security of sup

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