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Solar and green roof obligation in Hamburg - real estate owners face high costs

Hamburg's environment senator Jens Kerstan (Greens) is known for pithy statements.

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Solar and green roof obligation in Hamburg - real estate owners face high costs

Hamburg's environment senator Jens Kerstan (Greens) is known for pithy statements. When the 56-year-old says that the Senate will set "new standards" with the amended Climate Protection Act, no one flinches at first. But when the Greens politician announces, as happened on Tuesday after the Senate session in City Hall, that the amendment to the law will lead to additional burdens for the people of Hamburg, that is a reason to sit up and take notice.

With its new law, the Senate not only wants to give legal status to the already agreed goal of reducing at least 70 percent of CO₂ emissions by 2030. He also plans to tighten the solar roof obligation that has been in force since the beginning of this year and to introduce a new obligation to green roofs.

From 2027, all roofs that come into question must be greened. This applies to both new buildings and existing buildings where the roof needs to be renovated. 70 percent of the roof areas must then be greened.

Kerstan announced that the obligation to use solar roofs will not only apply to new buildings but also to existing buildings from next year, provided that their roofs are renovated. This means that the solar roof requirement for existing buildings comes a year earlier than previously planned. In addition, at least 30 percent of the roof area on the solar roofs must be covered with photovoltaic systems from 2024. So far, there have been no specifications regarding the size of the systems.

Around 6,800 roofs are to receive new solar systems every year, and the output of the solar systems on Hamburg's roofs is to increase to 203 megawatts by 2030 and even to 849 megawatts by 2050. New car parks with 35 spaces or more may only be built if they are covered with photovoltaic systems.

From 2027 onwards, new heating systems will have to be operated with at least 65 instead of 15 percent renewable energy. The city estimates that every year 6,000 to 8,000 heating systems will switch to renewable energy in this way.

From a certain size of the building, air conditioning systems may only be reinstalled if alternative cooling options such as awnings or window shutters are not possible. For heating networks, 50% by 2030 and 100% by 2045 must be supplied from renewable energies.

Kerstan justified the tightened rules by saying that "climate change, the climate crisis or the climate catastrophe - whatever you want to call it" is happening faster than previously thought. "The urgency has increased," said the environment senator. The costs of dealing with the consequences of climate change are constantly increasing. The Hanseatic city spends 100 million euros a year on climate change-related improvements in flood protection alone.

"The situation is serious, we mean what we say seriously, and we're going to be serious now," announced Kerstan. Although there will be exceptions to all obligations in justified individual cases, the obligations would apply in principle. Environment Senator Kerstan wants to save around three million tons of carbon dioxide (CO₂) by 2030 by tightening climate regulations. The new climate protection law is scheduled to come into force at the beginning of 2024. On Tuesday, the Senate started a hearing of the associations.

BUND was one of the first participants to speak up. From the point of view of the federal government for environmental protection and nature conservation, there is "a significant gap" between the claim and the content of the law. With the intended legal framework, a reduction in CO₂ emissions of 70 percent by 2030 and 98 percent by 2045 can hardly be achieved.

BUND Managing Director Lucas Schäfer criticizes the draft, among other things, that the law does not provide for close monitoring. "Under no circumstances can we afford to wait until 2030 to realize that the climate targets have unfortunately not been achieved." Schäfer called for more employees for the environmental authority so that the effects of the planned change in the law can be closely monitored.

Left-wing parliamentarian Stephan Jersch said: "If we stick to the pace presented so far with implementation and the Senate cannot even promise timely monitoring, I am very critical of the new climate protection law."

The director of the Association of North German housing companies, Andreas Breitner, is also calling for more staff to implement the climate targets. "We not only need goals, but also sufficient experts in the authorities who discuss, decide on and implement climate protection measures with our companies," said Breitner, who called on the Senate to treat the housing construction companies on an equal footing in the process. “There are many clever people in our member companies with many clever ideas on how to implement climate protection in their housing stock and at the same time ensure affordable rents.”

Breitner emphasized that the stricter climate requirements should not be borne solely by the property owners and ultimately their tenants. “In the end, state climate protection regulations must not lead to people with medium and low incomes no longer being able to afford their homes.”

The "citizens will not be left alone", assured Environment Senator Kerstan. According to Kerstan, there will be subsidy programs to keep the costs for property owners within limits.

The CDU, on the other hand, accused the Senate of falling short of its own standards - but instead of working more ambitiously to ensure good energy standards in public buildings, "horrendous costs" would be passed on to Hamburg's population and industry. For example, a “compulsory green roof from 2024 is nothing more than green coercive policy”, criticized the energy policy spokesman for the parliamentary group, Stephan Gamm.

Group colleague and environmental expert Sandro Kappe accused Kerstan of making big announcements again, but still lagging behind in his own area of ​​responsibility. So far, only four percent of the roofs of the buildings owned by the city have been greened, and less than three percent have a solar system on the roof.

Kerstan admitted that in recent years the expansion of solar roofs under the responsibility of the city has not gone as well as the Senate had hoped. With the establishment of a separate solar division at Hamburg Energie, the expansion will now also be able to proceed more quickly on public roofs.

According to the Green Party politician, bottlenecks in material would probably be solved in the coming years by stimulating the market. Just a few years ago there was a large solar industry in Germany. The fact that this no longer exists today, but that Germany is “90 percent dependent on China”, is the responsibility of the former federal government.

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