Remote readable heating meters with radio technology are becoming mandatory – and heating billing is also changing with new rules that have been approved by the Federal Council. What does this mean for tenants? Where do critics see problems?
The Federal Council today approved the new heating costs ordinance. The regulation of the federal government, with which EU requirements are to be implemented, brings some changes for tenants. With the new edition, the federal government wants to create more transparency for tenants in terms of energy consumption. Tenants should be able to adjust their heating behavior, save CO2 emissions and also save their budget. This means the introduction of remote readable heating meters.
What innovations does the new heating cost ordinance bring?
The central component is that meters for recording energy consumption must in future be remotely readable. This applies to newly installed meters; existing devices must be replaced by the end of 2026.
▶ In future, the heating cost bill must also contain a comparison to the consumption in the previous month and month of the previous year as well as to the average consumption.
▶ In addition, information about the fuel mix and the taxes, duties and duties levied must be provided.
▶ As soon as the remotely readable meters are installed, tenants should receive information about their consumption every month. This information can be provided by post, but also by e-mail or in an app.
What is the purpose of the new rules?
According to the Federal Council, the aim of the ordinance is:
- to encourage consumers to “use heat energy more consciously and sparingly”. The heating behavior is to be adapted in this way and the emission of CO2 emissions is to be reduced.
- The competition should also be promoted: The newly installed meters must be able to exchange data with devices from other manufacturers. This is to ensure that there is sufficient competition and that the metering service companies do not drastically increase the prices for their service in a market that is dominated by a few companies.
The Bundeskartellamt had previously scrutinized the industry – and recommended this option of exchanging data between meters and heat cost allocators in order to strengthen competition between meter reading service providers. According to the German Tenants’ Association, this should also make it easier to change providers.
What about data protection?
The installed meters must guarantee data protection and data security in accordance with the current state of the art. The requirements of the Federal Office for Information Security (BSI) are decisive for this.
Alternatively, the meters can also be connected to the so-called smart meter gateway. This communication unit receives and stores the meter data, processes it for market players and, according to the Federal Council, contains a corresponding security module.
What do the critics say?
1. German Tenants’ Association
The German Tenants’ Association (DMB) warns that the change in the law can lead to additional costs for tenants. It is to be feared that “tenants will have to pay more for these devices and the billing and consumption information than they save on additional energy costs.”
“High billing costs could arise due to the increased expenditure of the necessary monthly information and comparisons. According to German law, the costs of the consumption analysis are allocable operating costs. The draft does not provide for a cost limit for the provision of consumption information during the year. The legislature failed to limit the cost of recording consumption.
Dr. Jutta Hartmann, Head of Press and Public Relations DMB
▶ Landlords could also use the cost of newly installed devices as an opportunity to increase rent due to modernization or, under certain circumstances, allocate the rental costs for the meters to the apartment rent.
▶ It remains to be seen whether landlords will be more willing to switch to another, cheaper, billing company in the future and whether this intention of the legislature will be successful, according to Hartmann.
“The failure to end the unilateral allocation of CO2 pricing to tenants leads to significantly higher heating costs, especially for tenant households in unrenovated buildings.”
Dr. Melanie Weber-Moritz, Federal Director DMB
2. Federation of German Consumer Organizations
The Federation of German Consumer Organizations (vzbv) also demands that consumers should not incur any additional costs as a result of the new regulation. Since meter readings would no longer have to be read on site in the future, this would result in cost savings that should also benefit consumers.
How are the metering companies reacting?
▶ The real estate service provider Ista claims that it already records consumption in almost three million apartments with the help of digital, remotely readable measuring devices. “This means that we can already take the majority of the readings without having to enter the apartments,” the company says. According to its own information, Ista currently records energy consumption in around five million apartments in Germany. Ista is one of the largest companies in the industry.
▶ According to the meter reader Techem, almost 80 percent of the devices in the properties managed by the company have already been converted to wireless technology. “By 2025, 90 percent of the devices in our properties should be remotely readable,” said the provider.
So what should tenants in Germany expect from the New Heating Costs Ordinance?
Before tenants in Germany can see any tangible change, the Federal Council will first:
- Take into account the concerns of the tenants’ association and consumer advocates regarding the costs and has tied its approval to the condition that the regulation should be evaluated after three years.
- Determine as early as possible whether additional costs arise for tenants and whether these will be charged without compensation.
▶ In an accompanying resolution, the Federal Council therefore emphasizes that the installation of remotely readable measuring devices should not lead to additional costs for consumers. After the evaluation, it should be checked whether a cost cap is necessary.
▶ The Federal Council also calls on the Federal Government to make it transparent how costs can be saved for private consumers through joint measuring systems for electricity, gas and water. The decision to implement the ordinance into law will be ratified by the new German government.