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Robert Habeck: Criticism of the Minister's energy saving plans


While the government does not hesitate to buy expensive liquid gas, it still does not want to hurt anyone when it comes to saving energy. Scientists are now criticizing Robert Habeck's plans.

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Economics Minister Habeck at a performance in the Bundestag

Photo: Emmanuele Contini / IMAGO

What ventilation was in the time of Corona is turning down the radiators in times of the Ukraine war.

Even in the current crisis, all citizens are asked to help.

Because oil and gas are expensive and natural gas could become scarce in just a few months.

Solutions are being worked on feverishly: as early as April, the traffic light released three billion euros for the rental of four floating liquid gas terminals, followed by an LNG Acceleration Act that should make it possible to set up so-called liquid gas terminals in an expedited process.

The Russian gas imports are to be replaced quickly - a total of around 40 billion cubic meters of gas per year - even if only around ten billion are to be replaced next winter.

Assuming, of course, that Putin doesn't turn off the gas tap beforehand.

But the gas crisis cannot only be solved with expensive acquisitions.

The prices for liquid gas are up to five euros per cubic meter, a year ago they were less than two euros.

There are also climate policy concerns: LPG has a much worse environmental balance than, for example, pipeline gas, especially if it is obtained using the fracking process.

That's why energy experts and environmentalists have been pushing for more energy efficiency for weeks.

For years, measures to reduce consumption were mostly ignored and only a few experts took them seriously.

Saving energy - but only if it doesn't hurt

Federal Minister of Economics Robert Habeck has now reacted.

On Tuesday, he presented a work plan for »saving energy for more independence« for the first time.

The paper is only five pages long and sets out the direction in which the government intends to reduce gas consumption.

This includes: an energy-saving campaign that is to start as early as June, solar roofs are to be made a legal standard, a program for heat pumps, incentives and subsidies for the industry.

In this way, companies are to be encouraged to use their industrial process heat and the primary industry is to be supported in converting to climate-friendly processes.

Stricter measures for heating exchange should also apply to the heat transition, i.e. in residential buildings and commercial buildings.

According to the plans, from 2024 every newly installed or replaced heating system must be operated with at least 65 percent renewable energy.

And in new builds, the efficiency house standard 55 will apply from next year, and the standard EH 40 from 2025.

That all sounds good, but is completely insufficient, say scientists and energy experts in the first reactions.

While the government went on the offensive when buying liquid gas without hesitation, Habeck's work plan does not do justice to the current crisis, says Matthias Koch from the think tank E3G.

"We need mandatory instruments, not advice," says Koch.

The minister's work plan is commendable, but would not suffice for short-term savings.

"The increased focus on solar roofs, heat pumps and building efficiency makes sense, but that will only really do anything for us in two to three years," says the energy expert.

Measures are currently in demand that will take effect in the coming winter.

The think tank has calculated that such short-term measures could save around 15 to 20 percent of German natural gas - if they are ambitious enough.

With the current plans, however, it is very likely that less than two percent would be achieved.

Not only private households could be more economical.

In the short term, there is still room for improvement in the industry.

In this way, industrial plants could lower their room temperatures.

"If you also reduce production in the short term, but instead install more efficient and electrified systems, that's a win-win situation," says Koch.

A short-term switch from natural gas to heating oil and an increased use of coal-fired power plants could also be considered - if this use is limited.

"With such measures, Germany could save about the same amount of natural gas over the next twelve months as it wants to buy in new imports on the world market," says Koch.

"But that won't work without drastic measures, which also hurt in some places, and that's politically sensitive."

»We need unpopular decisions!«

"The government must get the population out of their comfort zone if they really want to find a sustainable solution to the crisis," agrees Peter Mellwig from the ifeu Institute for Energy and Environmental Research in Heidelberg.

Unpopular decisions would have to be made for that.

The Federal Chancellor must finally put his foot down when it comes to saving energy.

"Every cubic meter of gas that we save now makes us less vulnerable to blackmail in the fall," says the engineer and energy consultant.

With all understanding for those affected, one must act more decisively in the current situation.

Other experts consider the energy-saving campaign demanded by Habeck to be sensible but "not new in itself" - because it is difficult to force private consumers to save energy - except for the price, says Stefan Thomas, an energy expert at the Wuppertal Institute.

"We know from previous studies that people can reduce their consumption very quickly when prices are higher." The problem is that they are not yet aware of it because the bills will not come until next year.

»But if you heat and ventilate intelligently, you can easily save ten percent of your costs without freezing.«

800 energy advisors to 40 million households

According to the ministry's work plan, citizens are to be encouraged with "practical tips and advice to reduce their own energy consumption".

But there's a catch.

There has been a shortage of energy consultants for months.

During home visits, they explain how to best save money with small measures such as sealing windows or maintaining a thermal bath.

According to the consumer centers, there are long waiting times, there are probably only 800 energy consultants in Germany - after all, around 40 million households.

Since the campaign is scheduled to start in June, it remains to be clarified where new consultants are to come from so quickly.

»There is a lack of good specialists and something has to happen first with their training«, says Thomas.

Even the medium-term measures are not enough for him.

A study by the Wuppertal Institute has shown that for Habeck's 65 percent target for renewable heating from 2024, at least 700,000 to 800,000 heat pumps per year would have to be built - almost half more than planned.

A more ambitious offensive is needed, not only when it comes to replacing heating systems and insulating, but also in the housing situation in general.

»One-family houses could become two-family houses, because far too large areas are still being heated unnecessarily and at the same time there is a shortage of housing.«

While exact figures are now being given for the purchase of liquid gas, it is unclear how many cubic meters of gas are to be saved by Habeck's work plan for energy efficiency.

However, such an estimate or target would be helpful if the government really intends to import as little expensive LNG as possible.

While this is easier in the short term, it is certainly far more expensive for the taxpayer in the long term.

Because in 20 years, industry and households will have to be climate-neutral anyway.

Source: spiegel

All tech articles on 2022-05-17

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