The Slovenia Times

Gas boiler phaseout plan provokes strong backlash

A gas compression facility in Ajdovščina. Photo: Plinovodi

Slovenian gas distributors have come out in force against the government's plan to phase out natural gas from heating systems by banning gas boilers in new homes and phasing out gas supply concessions.

The groundwork for the gas boiler phaseout is set down in a reform energy bill that the government adopted on 7 December to set out the energy policy framework for the country.

Nuclear designated as low-carbon source

Aside from renewable sources, the bill lists nuclear energy, hydrogen, synthetic gas and waste heat as low-carbon sources which are preferred to sources with high carbon dioxide emissions.

This is a major change from the previous version of the bill, which was heavily criticised by the centre-right opposition for omitting the explicit mention of nuclear and strongly favouring solar energy.

Energy sources will have a clear priority ranking, which the government says is designed to promote the switch to zero- or low-carbon sources and improve the energy efficiency of buildings.

The bill changes how decarbonisation will be conducted at the local level by requiring local communities to adopt plans to phase out fossil fuels, create energy communities, and take measures to alleviate poverty.

Gas boiler phaseout

In what has proved to be the most controversial proposal, the bill sets out that installation of boilers powered by natural gas or liquefied petroleum gas will not be allowed in new buildings, unless there are no other technical possibilities.

In dense settlements, it would no longer be allowed to install heating systems that use liquid or solid fuels, including biomass, except as secondary heat sources.

Biomass is currently the preferred heat source for the vast majority of homes in Slovenia, due to its abundance and low price.

In a bid to phase out gas, local communities would no longer be allowed to grant new concessions for the construction and management of gas distribution networks, unless the providers can demonstrate that at least 80% of the gas can come from renewable sources.

Existing concessions could be extended under very strict conditions, and for no more than seven years. The first concession to expire will be in Maribor in 2027, while some are valid through 2050.

Distributors say provisions unconstitutional

Gas distributors came out against the plans with their association commissioning a legal opinion which finds that several provisions are in violation of the Constitution.

Urban Odar, the head of the Business Association of Gas Distributors, told reporters on 8 December the problem was the curbs would only affect households, but not new gas-fired power plants or co-generation.

There is a lack of accessible alternative sources and heat pumps will only make the power grid more unstable, he added.

Instead of banning gas boilers, measures should be adopted to reduce energy consumption overall and more should be done to add gases from renewable sources into the mix, he said.

Data presented by the association show that 86 of Slovenia's 212 municipalities have a gas distribution system. The network stretches over 5,000 kilometres and 121,000 households have a gas connection.

Govt remains adamant

Responding to the criticism, the government says the plans are but the continuation of a gradual process that will help accelerate the green transition and reduce dependence on imported energy.

Several similar solutions, a result of ever more stringent EU rules, already exist, for example a ban on the installation of heating oil boilers in new buildings. This ban will now be extended to one more fossil fuel, Tina Seršen, state secretary at the Ministry of Environment, Climate and Energy, said on 11 December.

Property investors, in particular those who build residential housing, already have to comply with numerous demands regarding efficient energy use and the share of renewables.

"A new residential building must be nearly zero emissions as it is and it does not make sense to connect such buildings to the gas network. There are alternatives that are significantly better for wallets and the climate," Seršen said.

The ban will apply only to new buildings, in existing housing the transition will be slow. "We're talking about a period of 20 to 25 years before all buildings use clean energy for heating," she said.

The bill, which has some 200 articles, also deals with administrative procedure and regulatory rules that the government says will be simplified.

It says the phasing of EU green funds will be simplified as well, while a new facility will be created for the complimentary financing of projects that secure EU green transition funds.


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