Energy in Germany

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Wind turbines and solar panels at Lisberg Castle in Germany
Energy mix of Germany

Energy in Germany is obtained for the vast majority from fossil sources, accounting for 77.6% of total energy consumption in 2023, followed by renewables at 19.6%, and 0.7% nuclear power.[1][2] As of 2023, German primary energy consumption amounted to 10,791 Petajoule, making it the ninth largest global primary energy consumer. The total consumption has been steadily declining from its peak of 14,845 Petajoule in 2006.[3][2] In 2023 Germany's gross electricity production reached 508.1 TWh,[1] down from 569.2 TWh in 2022, and 631.4 TWh in 2013.[4]

Key to Germany's energy policies and politics is the "Energiewende", meaning "energy turnaround" or "energy transformation". The policy includes nuclear phaseout (completed in 2023) and progressive replacement of fossil fuels by renewables. The nuclear electricity production lost in Germany's phase-out was primarily replaced with coal electricity production and electricity importing. One study found that the nuclear phase-out caused $12 billion in social costs per year, primarily due to increases in mortality due to exposure to pollution from fossil fuels.[5] Germany has been called "the world's first major renewable energy economy".[6][7]

Prior to the 2022 Russian invasion of Ukraine, Germany was highly dependent on Russian energy, accounting for half of its natural gas, a third of heating oil, and half of its coal imports from Russia.[8][9] Due to this reliance, Germany blocked, delayed or watered down EU proposals to cut Russian energy imports amid the 2022 Russian invasion of Ukraine.[10][11][12] However, the Russian invasion resulted in a radical shift in Germany's energy policy, with the goal of being almost completely independent of Russian energy imports by mid-2024.[13]

Energy statistics[edit]

Electricity in 2020[14]
(TWh)
Category Amount
Consumption 500.35
Production 545.20
Import 48.05
Export 66.93
Natural gas in 2020[14]
(billion m3)
Consumption 87.55
Production 5.13
Import 83.12
Crude Oil in 2020[14]
(barrels)
Consumption 856,470,000
Production 49,280,000
Import 628,020,000

CO2 emissions in 2020: 603.35 million tons

Energy plan[edit]

The plan for 2030 aims for 80% of electricity from renewables.[15]

Energy consumption[edit]

Fossil fuel consumption in Germany, including combined former East and West from 1980 to 2011 from EIA data. Use of coal declined significantly after reunification.

In 2019, Germany was the sixth largest consumer of energy in the world.[16] The country also had the largest national market of electricity in Europe. Germany is the fifth-largest consumer of oil in the world, with oil accounting for 34.3% of all energy use in 2018, with another 23.7% coming from natural gas.[17]

Energy imports[edit]

In 2021, Germany imported 63.7% of its energy.[18]

About 98% of oil consumed in Germany is imported.[18] In 2021, Russia supplied 34.1% of crude oil imports, the US 12.5%, Kazakhstan 9.8% and Norway 9.6%.[18]

In 2021, Germany was the world's largest importer of natural gas, which covered more than a quarter of primary energy consumption in Germany.[18] Around 95% of Germany's natural gas was imported, of which around half is re-exported.[18] 55% of gas imports came from Russia, 30% from Norway and 13% from the Netherlands.[18] As of 2022, Germany does not have LNG terminals, so all gas imports use pipelines.[18] After the 2022 Russian invasion of Ukraine, Germany announced that it wanted to build an LNG terminal at the North Sea port of Brunsbüttel to improve energy security.[19]

Due to its rich coal deposits, Germany has a long tradition of using coal. It was the fourth-largest consumer of coal in the world as of 2016.[20] Domestic hard coal mining has been completely phased out in 2018, as it could not compete with cheaper sources elsewhere and had survived only through subsidies. As of 2022, only lignite is still mined in Germany. After ending domestic production in 2018, Germany imported all 31.8 million tonnes of the hard coal it consumed in 2020. The biggest suppliers were Russia (45.4%), the United States (18.3%) and Australia (12.3%).[18]

In 2023, Germany's natural gas imports declined by 32.6%, to 968 terawatt hours (TWh).[21] This was attributed to greater energy saving and a decrease in gas exports.[21] The top sources for the import natural gas were Norway (43%), the Netherlands (26%), and Belgium (22%).[21]

Electricity production[edit]

Germany electricity production by source
Germany renewable electricity production by source
German electricity by source in 2023
Brown coalHard coalNatural gasWindSolarBiomassNuclearHydroOilOther
  •   Brown coal: 77.5 TW⋅h (17.7%)
  •   Hard coal: 36.05 TW⋅h (8.3%)
  •   Natural gas: 45.79 TW⋅h (10.5%)
  •   Wind: 139.77 TW⋅h (32.0%)
  •   Solar: 53.48 TW⋅h (12.2%)
  •   Biomass: 42.25 TW⋅h (9.7%)
  •   Nuclear: 6.72 TW⋅h (1.5%)
  •   Hydro: 19.48 TW⋅h (4.5%)
  •   Oil: 3.15 TW⋅h (0.7%)
  •   Other: 12.59 TW⋅h (2.9%)
Net generated electricity in 2023[22]

Sources of power[edit]

Fossil fuels[edit]

Coal power[edit]

Grafenrheinfeld Power Plant

Coal is the second-largest source of electricity in Germany. As of 2020, around 24% of the electricity in the country is generated from coal.[23] This was down from 2013, when coal made up about 45% of Germany's electricity production (19% from hard coal and 26% from lignite).[24] Nonetheless, in the first half of 2021, coal was the largest source of electricity in the country.[25]

Germany is also a major producer of coal. Lignite is extracted in the extreme western and eastern parts of the country, mainly in Nordrhein-Westfalen, Sachsen and Brandenburg. Considerable amounts are burned in coal plants near the mining areas to produce electricity and transporting lignite over far distances is not economically feasible; therefore, the plants are located near the extraction sites.[26] Bituminous coal is mined in Nordrhein-Westfalen and Saarland. Most power plants burning bituminous coal operate on imported material, therefore, the plants are located not only near to the mining sites, but throughout the country.[26]

German coal-fired power plants are being designed and modified so they can be increasingly flexible to support the fluctuations resulting from increased renewable energy. Existing power plants in Germany are designed to operate flexibly. Load following is achieved by German natural gas combined cycle plants and coal-fired power plants. New coal-fired power plants have a minimum load capability of approximately 40%, with further potential to reduce this to 20–25%. The reason is that the output of the coal boiler is controlled via direct fuel combustion and not, as is the case with a gas combined-cycle power plant, via a heat recovery steam generator with an upstream gas turbine.[24]

Germany has been opening new coal power plants until recently[when?], following a 2007 plan to build 26 new coal plants.[27] This has been controversial in light of Germany's commitment to curbing carbon emissions.[28] By 2015, the growing share of renewable energy in the national electricity market (26% in 2014, up from 4% in 1990) and the government's mandated CO2 emission reduction targets (40% below 1990 levels by 2020; 80% below 1990 levels by 2050) have increasingly curtailed previous plans for new, expanded coal power capacity.[29][30]

On 26 January 2019, a group of federal and state leaders as well as industry representatives, environmentalists, and scientists made an agreement to close all 84 coal plants in the country by 2038. The move is projected to cost 40 billion in compensation alone to closed businesses. Coal was used to generate almost 40% of the country's electricity in 2018 and is expected to be replaced by renewable energy and natural gas.[31] 24 coal plants are planned to be closed by 2022 with all but 8 closed by 2030. The final date is expected to be assessed every 3 years.[32]

In 2019 the import of coal rose 1.4% compared with 2018.[33]

The phasing out of black coal (anthracite) was brought forward in 2023 by 8 years to 2030, there is no agreement yet on phasing out brown coal (lignite) [34] although the EU gave approval in late 2023 for a €2.6 billion compensation payment to RWE to phase out lignite in the Rhine region.[35]

Natural gas[edit]

National energy policy has shifted towards utilizing natural gas to replace coal and serve as a complementary fuel source as green energy projects are developed. The seaports of Lubin, Brunsbuettel, Stade, and Wilhelmshaven utilize floating liquefied natural gas floating storage and regasification units to import gas.[36]

Renewable energy[edit]

Photovoltaic array and wind turbines at the Schneebergerhof wind farm in the German state of Rheinland-Pfalz
Years in which the last three renewable power levels achieved
Achievement Year Achievement Year Achievement Year
5% 2003 10% 2007 15% 2017[14]

Renewable energy includes wind, solar, biomass and geothermal energy sources.

The share of electricity produced from renewable energy in Germany has increased from 6.3 per cent of the national total in 2000 to 46.2 per cent in 2022.[37] Germany renewable power market grew from 0.8 million residential customers in 2006 to 4.9 million in 2012, or 12.5% of all private households in the country.

In end of 2011, the cumulative installed total of renewable power was 65.7GW.[38] Although Germany does not have a very sunny climate, solar photovoltaic power made up 4% of annual electricity consumption. On 25 May 2012, a Saturday, solar power reached a new record, injecting 22 GW of power into the German power grid. This met 50% of the nation's mid-day electricity demand on that day.[39]

In 2016, renewable energy based electricity generation reached 29.5%, but coal remained a factor at 40.1% of total generation. Wind was the leading renewable source at 12.3%, followed by biomass at 7.9% and solar PV at 5.9%.[40]

In 2020, renewable energy reached a share of 50.9% on the German public grid. Wind power made up 27% of total generation, and solar made up 10.5%. Biomass made up 9.7%, and hydro power made up 3.8%. The largest single non-renewable source was brown coal, with 16.8% of generation, followed by nuclear with 12.5%, then hard coal at 7.3%. Gas mainly provides peaking services, allowing for a generation share of 11.6%.[41]

Renewables as a percentage of gross electricity consumption[42]
Renewables as a percentage of primary energy consumption[42]

Solar power[edit]

In 2022 Germany had 66.5 GW of solar power capacity, which generated 62 terawatt hours of power from 2.65 million individual installations.[43]

Wind power[edit]

In March 2023 there were around 28,500 turbines in operation in Germany with a combined capacity of 58.5 GW.[15]

Offshore wind in Germany is expected to reach 115 GW by 2030.[15]

Bioenergy[edit]

In October 2016 the German Biomass Research Center (Deutsches Biomasseforschungszentrum) (DBFZ) launched an online biomass atlas for researchers, investors and the interested public.[44][45]

Nuclear power[edit]

Nuclear power has been a topical political issue in recent decades, with continuing debates about when the technology should be phased out. A coalition government of Gerhard Schröder took the decision in 2002 to phaseout all nuclear power by 2022.[46][47] The topic received renewed attention at the start of 2007 due to the political impact of the Russia-Belarus energy dispute and in 2011 after the Fukushima I nuclear accidents in Japan.[48] Within days of the March 2011 Fukushima Daiichi nuclear disaster, large anti-nuclear protests occurred in Germany. Protests continued and, on 29 May 2011, Merkel's government announced that it would close all of its nuclear power plants by 2022.[49][50] Eight of the seventeen operating reactors in Germany were permanently shut down following Fukushima in 2011.

The last operational German reactors closed down in April 2023.[51]

Energy efficiency[edit]

German Energy Efficiency Targets

The energy efficiency bottom-up index for the whole economy (ODEX) in Germany decreased by 18% between 1991 and 2006, which is equivalent to an energy efficiency improvement by 1.2% per annum on average based on the ODEX, which calculates technical efficiency improvements. Since the beginning of the new century, however, the efficiency improvement measured by the ODEX has slowed down. While a continuous decrease by 1.5%/y could be observed between 1991 and 2001, the decrease in the period from 2001 to 2006 only amounted to 0.5%, which is below the EU-27 level.[52]

By 2030 the German Federal Ministry of the Economy projects an increase in electricity consumption to 658 TWh. The expected increase is due to an expected uptick in electric mobility, more heating through electric heat-pumps, and production of batteries and hydrogen.[53]

Government energy policy[edit]

Germany was the fourth-largest producer of nuclear power in the world, but in 2000, the government and the German nuclear power industry agreed to phase out all nuclear power plants by 2021,[54] as a result of an initiative with a vote result of 513 Yes, 79 No and 8 Empty. The seven oldest reactors were permanently closed after the Fukushima accident.[55] However, being an integral part of the EU's internal electricity market, Germany will continue to consume foreign nuclear electricity even after 2022.[56] In September 2010, Merkel's government reached a late-night deal which would see the country's 17 nuclear plants run, on average, 12 years longer than planned, with some remaining in production until well into the 2030s.[57] Then, following Fukushima Daiichi nuclear disaster, the government changed its mind again, deciding to proceed with the plan to close all nuclear plants in the country by 2022.[58]

After becoming Chancellor of Germany, Angela Merkel expressed concern for overreliance on Russian energy, but the policy of energy imports did not change significantly afterwards.[59]

Government policy emphasises conservation and the development of renewable sources, such as solar, wind, biomass, water, and geothermal power. As a result of energy saving measures, energy efficiency (the amount of energy required to produce a unit of gross domestic product) has been improving since the beginning of the 1970s.

Sustainable energy[edit]

In September 2010, the German government announced a new aggressive energy policy with the following targets:[60]

  • Reducing CO2 emissions 40% below 1990 levels by 2020 and 80% below 1990 levels by 2050
  • Increasing the relative share of renewable energy in gross energy consumption to 18% by 2020, 30% by 2030 and 60% by 2050
  • Increasing the relative share of renewable energy in gross electrical consumption to 35% by 2020 and 80% by 2050
  • Increasing the national energy efficiency by cutting electrical consumption 50% below 2008 levels by 2050

Forbes ranked German Aloys Wobben ($3B), founder of Enercon, as the richest person in the energy business (wind power) in Germany in 2013.[61]

Taxes[edit]

Fossil fuel taxes[edit]

2019 fossil fuel taxes[62]
Gas oil (>50 mg/kg sulfur) Gas oil(≤50 mg/kg sulfur) Heavy oil Other oils Natural Gas Liquefied petroleum gas
unit €/liter €/liter €/kg €/liter €/MWh €/tonne
Taxation 0.7635 0.6135 0.25 0.6135 5.50 60.60

Carbon tax[edit]

The German ecological tax reform was adopted in 1999. After that, the law was amended in 2000 and in 2003. The law grew taxes on fuel and fossil fuels and laid the foundation for the tax for energy. In December 2019, the German Government agreed on a carbon tax of 25 Euros per tonne of CO2 on oil and gas companies. The law came into effect in January 2021. The tax will increase to 55 Euros per tonne by 2025.[63] From 2026 onwards, the price will be decided at auction.[64]


Development of carbon dioxide emissions

See also[edit]

References[edit]

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External links[edit]