Europe Stops the Production of Gas Boilers from 2029 but Italy is Against

Environment - May 13, 2023

According to the European Commission’s Draft Ecodesign Regulation, the Production of Gas Boilers Should be Officially Stopped from 2029

In the European Union’s Consultation Forum last week, there was discussion of a provision relating to the production of gas boilers which could undergo a definitive stop in 2029 but which is currently creating strong discontent among producers and consumers across the continent and in especially in Italy. In the next 2 months of the year, changes may be made, if necessary, after which the European Parliament and Council will decide whether to approve or reject the decree. The main objective of Europe, in addition to that linked to the protection of the environment in view of a complete ecological transition, is to significantly reduce the dependence of the old continent on Russian gas, in such a delicate current geo-political context.

The provision provides that the replacement of the boiler, for those who already own a gas one, will not be mandatory since the planned crackdown will mainly concern producers and new installations. However, anyone who should be forced to change their gas boiler because it is defective or no longer functional will be able to purchase boilers that will comply with the new directives, such as heat pump, electric, geothermal, ionic or biomass ones. The benefits that the new boilers powered, above all by electricity, would bring are mostly linked to the environment and savings for the families who will use them, based on the reduction in gas costs. The new European instructions provide for a minimum efficiency threshold of 115%, practically impossible to meet for gas, hydrogen or diesel boilers.

However, in order to work well, the new heat pump heating systems, both for the environment and for water for daily use, must be located in newly built housing structures or in any case have high-level thermal insulation. In old built or non-renovated houses, the heat pump may not be enough, and the heat dispersion could affect its use, increasing energy expenditure and, consequently, the cost of the bill. Other problems relating to the installation of a heat pump, instead of a traditional gas boiler, could be encountered in the case of domestic spaces that are too small to accommodate such voluminous elements as the external one of the heat pumps necessary to heat even the water for domestic use. Furthermore, the heat pump produces a continuous noise that is often very loud, which has not yet been resolved by technological adjustments and which could create noise pollution problems in many condominiums.

On the basis of the impediments found in the complete adaptation to any new regulations under discussion in the European Parliament, the head of the Italian Federconsumatori Energy Department Fabrizio Ghidini, requests an exemption at least for families unable to replace the gas boiler or who have no installation space for heat pumps or alternative systems envisaged by the decree. Another significant obstacle is represented by the cost of replacing the old boiler with new systems, which is very high, and which would often also involve invasive work on the entire heating system of the home for the necessary adaptation. Calculating the increase in the cost of the materials needed for the work to replace an old gas boiler and the current variability of inflation, the average expenditure for an Italian family could exceed 7,000 euros, making the operation of adaptation to European legislation practically prohibitive for many.

Speaking, however, of the positive aspects relating to the installation of new space and water heating systems, an average saving is recorded, for each family, of at least 70% on the bills and the initial expenditure of the new installation could be amortized in just over 5 years and then have an average life of the new elements of about 25 years. At the moment, therefore, investing in new domestic heating devices would seem to be extremely advantageous, above all in view of future savings and, in particular, for owners or renters of buildings that have already undergone renovations which have transformed the structure in a low impact and zero emissions. The solution to avoid creating an imbalance between families ready to adapt and those not yet equipped, would consist in providing a wide range of devices, all zero emissions but with different costs and installation procedures to meet each individual.

European states such as Denmark and Belgium said they were immediately enthusiastic about the project under discussion in the European Commission, but other nations such as Italy are strongly opposed since Italian housing structures, for example, are not yet ready for a similar thermal evolution and need substantial investment by the government for the necessary adaptation. A similar transition requires a very high efficiency of the thermal system that the extreme variability of the conditions of the buildings in the Bel Paese cannot guarantee. The stop to gas boilers discussed in the European Parliament in recent weeks joins the other drastic restrictions envisaged for the coming years, such as that relating to fossil fuels which will no longer be able to power cars on the road from 2035 or that linked to the eco-sustainable development of new homes for the Green Houses project. The consumer, already battered by an economic-financial crisis linked to the pandemic, cannot bear the economic weight of changes that are as important as they are pretentious and required by a European Community that should take into account the great inequality that still exists between the Member States.

Naturally, Europe also provides substantial incentives for the replacement of old gas boilers with new devices but, according to many analysts, they are still not sufficient to represent valid economic aid for families forced to adapt to the new regulations. The entire Italian energy system needs a revolution that has not yet started, and which sees Italy still too far behind nations such as Germany which has about 1000 Energy Communities on its territory compared to just 30 in Italy. The Energy Communities are essential to accompany society towards an efficient ecological transition in the time set by Europe and a nation ready in the renewable energy sector can best manage any energy adjustment required, as well as that relating to boilers. Italy is asking Europe to give more widespread incentives to families with more delicate economic situations without risking a counterproductive dispersion of funds.

Another highly concerned sector, in view of the new regulation, is that of companies directly involved in the production and maintenance of boilers and all domestic heating devices. The associations that safeguard the interests of companies operating in the world of gas distribution, thermal plants and building construction fear a relapse of the effects of the new European regulations on the competitiveness of the industry, on the stability and resilience of the entire energy system and on the economic and social sustainability of families. The commitment to achieving environmental objectives is also common among sectoral associations, but there is no shortage of perplexity relating to the timing and necessary aid. Italy is asking for a different approach that is not based on bans that could put families and businesses in difficulty but rather takes into account the development prospects and energy vector technologies of each member country so as to set up a specific design path for every nation.