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Legislative in Germany sees geothermal as fundamental part of heating networks

Building of Germany's Federal Council (Bundesrat), Berlin (source/ copyright: Bundesrat)
Alexander Richter 18 Apr 2020

In a statement on the planned coal exit in Germany the Federal Council of Germany (upper house) has emphasised the central importance of geothermal energy for the substitution of fossil fuels in the district heating networks of the country.

The Bundesrat (Federal Council) of Germany has released a draft of a “Coal Exit Law”. In it the central importance of geothermal energy for the substitution of fossil fuels in heating networks is emphasised. It further highlights that geothermal energy can also provide emission-free and base load-capable electricity.

Already in mid-March, the Federal Council emphasized in a statement ((Drucksache 51/20 (decision)) on the draft law on the reduction and termination of coal-based electricity generation and the amendment of further laws (coal exit law) the central importance of geothermal energy for the substitution of fossil fuels in “With the help of geothermal energy, greenhouse gas emissions from the supply of grid-connected heat can be significantly reduced. In addition, there is the possibility of emission-free and base load-capable electricity production,” says the statement.

Federal Council calls for improvements

As part of the statement, the Federal Council calls for the disproportionately disadvantageous treatment of hard coal power plants to be eliminated, as well as further adjustments to the draft coal phase-out law. Among other things, it should:

  • give an unconditional extension of cogeneration support in all performance classes until at least 2030;
  • provide effective incentives for converting from coal to gas CHP or plants for the production of green district heating. This should be done with a significant increase in the coal replacement bonus for security of supply and climate protection as well as an adjustment of the transition periods taking into account the given framework conditions;
  • create incentives for the heat transition. Increase in incentives to invest in gas is to be avoided by expanding the promotion of innovative renewable heat.

The Federal Council also notes that against the background of the coal phase-out, an accelerated expansion of renewable energies is necessary. However, the draft law lacked “urgent changes” to the Renewable Energy Sources Act (EEG). In order to achieve the national climate protection goals, corresponding changes to the EEG have to be implemented in the coal phase-out law.

Measures to expand geothermal energy

The Federal Council considers the following measures to be necessary in the context of the opinion:

  • The “Renewable Energies” program “Premium”, which is based on funding from the Market Incentive Program (MAP), should be improved. In particular, funding for the expansion of heating networks should be increased significantly. For the promotion of drilling costs, it is essential to lift the restriction of eligible drilling to a maximum of four holes per project, to increase the maximum production height from EUR 10 million to EUR 30 million and to drop the depth restriction of 2,500 meters.
  • The protection of deep geothermal projects should be improved. The establishment of a nationwide heat network transformation fund would be suitable for this, the funds of which are used in the form of guarantees to protect against risks.

District heating networks should become greener

The Federal Council emphasizes that the combined generation of electricity, process steam and heat (CHP) as well as local and district heating infrastructures are important pillars for a cost- and energy-efficient energy supply in Germany and can make a significant contribution to the implementation of energy and climate policy goals. For this reason, appropriate framework conditions are required for CHP plants as well as for local and district heating infrastructure.

The Federal Council is striving to expand the district heating network and has set the goal of generating 150 terawatt hours from gas-based combined heat and power (CHP) by 2030. 30 percent of this is said to come from renewable energies. In its statement of reasons, the Federal Council writes that ambitious goals are needed for the expansion of renewable energies in heat supply.

District heating from cogeneration

The focus of the draft law and the Federal Council’s opinion is on expanding CHP. In addition, “innovative renewable heat” should also be promoted. However, the Federal Council criticizes that the spectrum of heat sources included is not sufficient in terms of economy, availability and openness to technology. He calls for the surcharges to be increased and renewable heat, for example from hydrogen, biogas and industry, to be included in the new funding. Geothermal energy is not explicitly mentioned in this context. In concrete terms, however, the promotion of CHP plants with a power-to-heat module is to be increased significantly from EUR 70 to EUR 180.

Source: German Bundesrat via TiefeGeothermie