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Heating with Electricity and Gas – The Two Pillars of tomorrow’s Heating Market

15.11.2021

The climate protection goals for the heating market are ambitious – but feasible. Gas as a source of heating will continue to play a decisive role when it comes to reaching them.

The transformation of the economy towards sustainability is also affecting the German heating market. 40 % of the energy consumption in this country is accounted for by the existing stock of buildings, with 85 % of said consumption may be attributed to heating and the preparation of hot water. A lot of this high consumption is attributable to the energetic condition of many buildings. Older buildings in particular often do not satisfy the standards necessary to achieve the desired climate neutrality of the housing stock.1

The heating sector was able to reduce its emissions during the last decades. However, considering the ambitious climate goals of the Federal Government, there is still a need to catch up: The building sector is expected to save 44 % of its CO2-emissions by 2030 – a benchmark which, without significant increases in the efficiency of the hot water supplies and heating of buildings, will only be achievable if increased national economic costs are accepted.2 While measures such as roof and exterior walls insulation or the renovation of windows usually mean costly investments in the substance of buildings, a change of the heat producer often offers a much more inexpensive possibility of attuning buildings quickly and effectively to more climate protection.3

In the future, the deployment of climate-neutral gases will be a critical factor for success. A number of reasons speak in favour of this.

First, it is safe to assume that heating oil, as a fossil fuel, will disappear from the heating market by 2050 due to the resolved ban on oil heating.4 At the same time, a full electrification of the heating market would entail financial and practical obstacles. Increased electromobility and electrical heat production will place a heavy load on the existing German electricity grid in the medium to long term. Particularly in autumn and winter months, during which it is not possible to generate sufficient quantities of renewable electricity, such a strategy would represent a potential threat to grid stability. A shortcoming that could only be compensated for by extensive investments and thus makes full electrification appear inefficient.5 The attractiveness of electricity as a form of heating energy is thus primarily restricted to the new buildings sector, as newly erected buildings corresponding to statutory stipulations will, in the future, only be permitted to have very low heating requirements.6

The use of the right energy mix, on the other hand, will be decisive for a reduction of emissions in existing building stocks, especially with regard to older buildings.7 It is here that, alongside electricity, gas will play an important role to play as a source of energy. This is attributable to the adaptability of this source of energy to the needs of a sustainable supply of energy and heat. Thus, on the gas market, regenerative gases, such as biomethane, are currently increasing in significance. Hydrogen, produced in a climate-neutral manner, too offers itself as an alternative to be taken seriously. This versatility opens up two paths towards placing the gas supply in Germany on sustainable footing. On the one hand, there is the possibility of gradually substituting biomethane for conventional natural gas on the supply grid. On the other hand, existing gas grids can be prepared for the deployment of hydrogen through systematic refitting.8

Gas will thus remain a supportive pillar of the German heat supply system in the future. According to calculations of “Zukunft Gas e. V.“, the gas mix used in 2050 will consist of 80 % biomethane and 20 % hydrogen produced in a climate-neutral manner. In addition, building owners will be able, by way of the newly created hydrogen infrastructure, to use gas that burns without emitting CO2 to generate their heat supplies. A change of energy carrier to gas and the replacement of outdated gas-based heating technology by modern devices such as gas heat pumps and cell heating systems will thus become important levers for climate protection. As such, gas can be expected to remain a dominating heating energy in existing building stocks.9

It is thus first and foremost the correct technology mix that will be decisive for a sustainable and functioning turnaround in heating - with gas continuing to play a key role.

1,5 Zukunft Gas: Dekarbonisierung des Wärmemarkts mit Gas: https://gas.info/klimaschutz-mit-gas/dekarbonisierung-waermemarkt
2 Die Bundesregierung: Ziele der Bundesregierung. Bis 2030 die Treibhausgase halbieren: https://www.bundesregierung.de/breg-de/themen/klimaschutz/klimaziele-und-sektoren-1669268
3 Zukunft Gas: Moderne Heizungen als Klimaschutz-Maßnahmen: https://gas.info/klimaschutz-mit-gas/dekarbonisierung-waermemarkt/heizungen-fuer-mehr-klimaschutz
4,8,9 Zukunft Gas: Klimaneutral Wohnen. Wie die CO₂-Minderung in Wohngebäuden gelingen kann: gas.info/fileadmin/Public/gas.info/PDF-Downloads/broschuere-klimaneutral-wohnen.pdf
6 Nymoen Strategieberatung: gas.info/fileadmin/Public/gas.info/PDF-Downloads/studie-klimaneutral-wohnen-waermemarktstudie-2021.pdf
7 Geea: Gebäudestudie: Szenarien für eine marktwirtschaftliche Klima- und Ressourcenschutzpolitik 2050 im Gebäudesektor: https://www.zukunft-haus.info/studien-gesetze/studien/geea-gebaeudestudie/