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More new fossil gas heating systems, only tentative progress: energy transition update

Reduced fossil fuel consumption due to the energy crisis, tentative positive signs in the expansion of renewable energy capacities, electric cars and heat pumps – but all this is not happening fast enough, according to new figures from the Ariadne Transformation Tracker. Moreover, the German energy transition is not yet on track when it comes to phasing out fossil fuels in the heating and transport sectors. Instead of the necessary decline, there has been a clear increase in the sale of new cars with combustion engines and new gas heating systems compared to the previous year.

“The energy transition on the path to climate neutrality is about speed in two respects – and Germany is currently lagging behind,” explains Gunnar Luderer, Deputy Head of the Ariadne project and scenario expert at the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research (PIK). “On the one hand, the energy system has to be restructured at an unprecedented pace, meaning that as much renewable energy generation capacity as possible should be made available as quickly as possible. On the other hand, it is a challenge to avoid fossil investments in cars, heating systems and industrial plants, which can obstruct the path to meeting the long-term climate targets”.

While there is at least tentative progress in the pace of consumption reductions and the expansion of renewables, the development of some fossil investments is currently going in the exact opposite direction. For example, the net extension of photovoltaics is on track at over 10 GW in the first nine months of 2023, while almost 10 percent more combustion engines were sold compared to the same period last year. The sales figures for gas heating systems for the first half of the year even show an increase of over 30 percent.

More than 45 key indicators as a comprehensive early warning system: since the energy transition is not a sure-fire success

On average, cars are used for 15-20 years, heating systems for up to 30 years. Accordingly, a gas heating system installed today will cause CO2 emissions until the 2040s if it is not mothballed prematurely or switched to expensive and scarce green gas. Newly purchased cars with petrol or diesel engines are also expected to have a negative impact on the carbon footprint until 2040. “It often seems as if there is still plenty of time for the energy transition before the first milestone in 2030 and the climate neutrality target in 2045,” emphasizes tracker expert Frederike Bartels from PIK. “But the course towards these targets has to be set today. Every purchasing decision will also determine whether we rely on oil, coal and gas for many years to come or whether we get the transformation on track with climate-friendly technology.”

The Transformation Tracker of the Kopernikus project Ariadne shows whether the energy transition in Germany is on course for climate neutrality along more than 45 specific key indicators and figures, from the expansion of renewable energies and emissions figures to investments in cars, heating systems and industrial plants. The new tracker update shows that 13 indicators are currently “on track”, 16 others are still making some progress, but 18 indicators are moving far too slowly or even in the wrong direction.

Funded by the Federal Ministry of Education and Research (BMBF), this tool can be used to compare real developments with the climate target paths of the Ariadne scenarios. The results show where the energy transition is not working and where course corrections are needed. The Transformation Tracker thus provides orientation and shows the most important progress of the energy transition at a glance – from the energy industry to the individual sectors such as buildings, transport and industry, to the system as a whole. For the first time, the Transformation Tracker is now also available in English.

To the Ariadne Transformation Tracker: