By 2030, the traffic light wants to have six million heat pumps installed in buildings. But there are several problems: too high electricity costs, not enough pumps and not enough skilled workers. Economics Minister Habeck is looking for solutions together with industry.

Owners of heat pumps should not be disadvantaged by the planned energy price brakes. Federal Minister of Economics Robert Habeck announced a special regulation for this purpose. In order to accelerate the installation of heat pumps in Germany, production capacities are also to be expanded and more skilled workers recruited. This was announced by the Ministry of Economics after a “heat pump summit” with representatives from industry and trade, among others.

In view of the increased energy costs, the federal government is planning a gas and electricity price brake. According to Habeck, the technical implementation of the price brakes is demanding. However, the corresponding laws should be passed by the Bundestag and Bundesrat by mid-December as planned. As a first step, the Bundestag and Bundesrat decided on a one-off payment for gas customers in December.

The gas price brake, which should take effect for private households and small and medium-sized companies from March at the latest, provides for basic consumption subsidized by the state – just like the electricity price brake. This should apply from January.

With a view to the fact that there should be a subsidized quota based on the reference year 2021, Habeck said: “If you have installed a heat pump, i.e. you have saved gas and used more electricity accordingly, then you would be punished according to the logic for the political actually desired behavior – namely away from fossil energies.” There will therefore be a special rule that takes this into account. What this should look like in concrete terms, however, is open.

According to the Federal Association of Heat Pumps, many customers who have just had a heat pump installed are very concerned that the electricity price brake will not cover their heating costs. They could not show any consumption from the previous year because they would have heated with gas or oil in the previous year. In case of doubt, this higher electricity consumption would then not be covered by the electricity price cap. It was also said that the gas price should be capped more than the electricity price.

In view of the higher investment costs for the heat pump installation, it is to be feared that potential investors will again distance themselves from the heat pump, according to a paper. Habeck said that the gas price brake does not mean that gas prices are as cheap as in 2021, but takes away the “overload pressure”. Switching away from fossil fuels still makes sense.

The minister acknowledged that investing in a heat pump is more expensive than fossil alternatives such as gas boilers. However, the federal government subsidizes the installation of heat pumps with up to a third of the acquisition costs. Habeck also said that he was in favor of using the “super write-off” for investments in climate protection technology provided for in the coalition agreement. In the building sector, CO2 emissions would have to be reduced.

Heat pumps draw a large part of the energy for heating from the environment, such as air and groundwater. In order to make the heat usable, they need electricity for the drive and pump. The electricity should come from renewable energies.

The managing director of the Federal Association of Heat Pumps, Martin Sabel, said that a new heating system lasts 15 to 20 years. The long-term perspective definitely speaks for the heat pump. The federal government’s goal is six million heat pumps by 2030. According to Habeck, there are currently 1.4 million. However, the demand has increased significantly. According to Habeck, 230,000 new heat pumps are expected to be installed this year. Last year there were around 150,000. From 2024 there should be 500,000 newly installed heat pumps per year, according to the goal of the federal government.

According to Habeck, industry will be able to produce these, it became clear at the summit. Sabel said there are currently waiting times of around half a year – if things are going badly, a year. A key issues paper from the summit states that a stronger European supplier industry is necessary in order to expand production capacities in Germany and Europe. A European platform for transformation technologies could offer an approach.

With a view to the scarcity of skilled workers, it is said that the attractiveness of the trade should be increased with new qualifications in the field of heat pumps and renewable energies. This applies both to apprenticeships and to further training. It goes on to say that the market for heat pumps is currently still heavily focused on new builds and single-family homes. “Heat pumps in existing buildings and especially in larger buildings will therefore have to be a key issue in 2023.”