1. Skip to content
  2. Skip to main menu
  3. Skip to more DW sites

German lawmakers pass heating law that divided government

September 8, 2023

Germany is moving toward phasing out oil and gas heating systems, as the controversial bill finally passed the lower house of parliament following months of tensions within the ruling coalition.

Scholz (left), Habeck (center) and Finance Minister Christian Lindner in the Bundestag
The parties of Scholz (left), Habeck (center) and Finance Minister Christian Lindner finally came to an agreement on the billImage: Michael Kappeler/dpa/picture alliance

German lawmakers in the lower house of parliament, the Bundestag, voted on Friday in favor of a controversial law aimed at phasing out oil and gas heating systems.

The bill has been a flashpoint among the German ruling coalition, comprised of Chancellor Olaf Scholz's center-left Social Democrats (SPD), the business-focused Free Democrats (FDP) and the climate change-focused Greens.

In recent months, the three parties have been locked in — sometimes public — infighting over the bill, with the Greens' Robert Habeck, who serves as the economy and climate action minister as well as vice chancellor, staunchly backing the proposal.

Meanwhile, FDP officials said they had to push for fundamental changes to the original plans. 

What are Germany's plans to make heating greener?

Dubbed the Building Energy Act (GEG), the law is aimed at gradually increasing the amount of renewable energy sources used to generate heat in homes and other buildings. It is estimated that half of German buildings currently use gas heating systems. 

Although the law is scheduled to take effect on January 1, 2024, the actual transition will take years.

In principle, newly installed heating systems in old and new buildings should be powered by at least 65% renewable energy.

However, functioning heating systems can continue to run and also be repaired as necessary. The installation of gas heaters is also permitted after 2024 if they are hydrogen-compatible, meaning that they could be converted at a later date. 

What's stalling the green transition?

At what cost?

The issue of how much of the cost of environmentally friendly heat pumps will be subsidized by the government has been a major thorn in the proposal. According to current plans, the government will cover up to 70% of it.

But the coalition government also bears the political cost, as energy security and inflation weigh on voters' minds. 

According to a survey commissioned by the liberal newspaper Die Zeit, as many as 70% of Germans reject compulsory regulations on banning heating fired by oil or gas or paying for obligatory replacements of their heating systems.

At the same time, the government's approval ratings are steadily declining, while the popularity of the conservative Christian Democratic Union (CDU) and the far-right Alternative for Germany (AfD) grows further.

fb/sms (AFP, dpa, Reuters)

While you're here: Every Tuesday, DW editors round up what is happening in German politics and society. You can sign up here for the weekly email newsletter Berlin Briefing.