Are households particularly protected?
Ja. The gas emergency plan, which is based on a European regulation, defines certain “protected customers”. These should be supplied with gas “as far as possible”, writes the Federal Network Agency. If there is a gas shortage, the Bonn authority would have to allocate the gas. Protected customers include private households, social institutions such as hospitals and kindergartens, but also gas-fired power plants that supply private households with heat. Industry, on the other hand, is not one of them. Business associations criticize this.
Will Habeck change the order?
That’s what it sounded like on Tuesday. If gas flows are interrupted for months, one might have to “think again” about the rules in the gas emergency plan, said Economics Minister Robert Habeck (Greens) during a visit to Vienna. “Nobody should be cold.” But private households must make a contribution, otherwise there would be massive consequences for the economy as a whole. On Wednesday, a spokeswoman for Habeck emphasized that the definition of protected customers continued to apply, that they would continue to be supplied in the event of a gas shortage and would not be switched off. However, all consumers would have to make a contribution to saving energy.
What exactly is planned now?
The Ministry of Economic Affairs and the Network Agency are still keeping a low profile as to how they would proceed in the event of a gas shortage. However, it could be more precisely defined what “protected” actually means. Habeck’s State Secretary Patrick Graichen already indicated this at an energy conference in mid-May: “Of course, households are supplied with heat, but there is no right to 25 degrees, only 20 or 19 degrees,” he said at the time.
Could politics impose caps on temperature?
State-set upper temperature limits for apartments would be a sharp intervention and probably difficult to enforce. After all, politicians cannot “send out a thermostat police force,” said FDP parliamentary group leader Christian Dürr recently. If you live in your own four walls and heat with oil or wood pellets, you can face the winter with relative ease – provided you have enough heating material in the tanks. Anyone who is connected to the gas pipeline network has to worry more, not only because of security of supply, but also because gas prices have risen so much. For this reason alone, some will turn up the thermostat less.
What is the minimum temperature?
In the Civil Code, in which tenancy law is regulated, no specific degrees are specified. However, guideline values have emerged from judgments by courts. According to the German Tenants’ Association, landlords must adjust a central heating system during the heating period – usually from October 1st to April 30th – so that at least 20 to 22 degrees are reached in the apartment during the day. Between 11 p.m. and 6 a.m. 18 degrees were enough.
Could those thresholds be lowering?
In mid-June, Netzagentur President Klaus Müller brought up the suggestion that the state could temporarily lower the heating requirements for landlords. You discuss that. The General Association of the Housing Industry (GdW) has spoken out in favor of lowering the minimum temperature to 18 degrees during the day and 16 degrees at night. Habeck would probably have little objection, but he is not the decisive minister in this case. Justice Minister Marco Buschmann (FDP) is responsible for tenancy law, and Housing Minister Klara Geywitz (SPD). The latter described legally prescribed freezing as “nonsensical”. Temperatures below 20 degrees are a danger to health and also to the building fabric.
How warm does it have to be at work?
In contrast to private households, there are clear temperature specifications for workplaces. The basis is the workplace ordinance, specifically: the ASR A3.5 rule. If the activity is carried out while sitting, it must be at least 20 degrees in the room for light work, and 19 degrees for medium-heavy work. When standing, 12 degrees is sufficient for a high degree of work difficulty, 17 degrees for a medium and 19 degrees for a light one. It would be conceivable that politicians would lower these temperature limits. That would make it easier for companies to send their employees to work from home in winter. The consumer goods group Henkel has already announced that it intends to lower the temperature in its offices in order to save gas. The criticism was not long in coming. Many employees are likely to want to work more rather than less in the office this winter in order to save on heating costs at home.
When is the additional cost hammer coming?
The Energy Security Act has recently included a price adjustment clause. Suppliers can thus pass on their higher purchase prices for gas to customers in long-term contracts. However, the network agency has not yet activated this clause. A surcharge for all gas consumers is also legally possible in order to reduce the burden in individual cases. The federal government and the network agency are advising on how to proceed. Tenants are now getting their utility bills for 2021. The bills for 2022 with the high gas prices, on the other hand, will not be made until next year. Housing companies are now pushing to increase monthly advance payments as a precaution. The federal government is examining whether it should regulate this. Tenants and landlords can now individually agree on higher deductions. The housing association GDW estimates that a four-person household will have to reckon with additional energy costs – including electricity – of up to 5,000 euros this year.