Last changed: 30/03/12
What is renewable energies’ share in electricity production? What do we need to bear in mind when we burn wood on open fires or in stoves? How can we use biomass sustainably? How do the European mechanisms to promote renewable electricity generation work?
Renewable energies, or just renewables, include wind and solar power, biomass, geothermal energy and hydropower. Renewable energies can make a significant contribution to climate protection. They also help to ensure supply security and to prevent conflicts over resources. The basic principle underlying the use of renewable energies is that electricity, heat and fuel are produced using either processes that occur in nature or renewable raw materials.
We monitor and evaluate the development of innovative and environmentally sound technologies. We advocate for the use of renewable energies by proposing appropriate instruments and measures that simplify the integration of renewable energies and support their sustainable expansion. The Renewable Energy Sources Act plays an important part in promoting renewable electricity. The Renewable Energies Heat Act and the Market Incentive Programme are designed to increase the share of heat generated that is renewable.
Thanks to the use of renewable energies 106 million tonnes of CO2 equivalents were saved in Germany in 2007. These are the conclusions of an UBA study in German which applied optimised methods to make new calculations of the emissions accounting of renewable energies used in the electricity, heating, and fuel supply sectors. Upstream processes, e.g. production and servicing of installations, extraction of fuels, were taken into account in the net balance.
Renewable energies have undergone rapid growth. Their share in final energy consumption has doubled since 2000 and by 2009 had reached 10.1 %. The working group on renewable energy statistics (Arbeitsgemeinschaft Erneuerbare-Energien-Statistik) independently calculates the progress and current status of renewable energies in Germany, the EU and worldwide. You will find further information here:
Effective and efficient instruments are needed if we are to meet the European target of generating at least 21 % of gross electricity consumption from renewables by 2020. In a study commissioned by the Federal Environment Agency and published in English, the principal instruments used in Europe were analysed and compared and their potential for contributing to Europe’s expansion target examined.
Many less developed countries have considerable potential for using renewable energies that have not yet been exploited. The Clean Development Mechanism (CDM) that was created under the Kyoto Protocol allows industrialised countries to offset the greenhouse gas emissions that exceed their reduction targets by investing in carbon abatement measures in developing countries. A study commissioned by the Federal Environment Agency examines the role of the Clean Development Mechanism in promoting renewable energies in developing countries. A guide for policymakers provides a summary of the findings.
Would you also like to use renewable energies and help protect the environment and climate?
The online green electricity tariff calculator in German will give you advice on how to switch to a green electricity supplier. You can also search for available funding in the energy funding database energiefoerderung.info in German or in the series of energy saving guides in German.
An online adviser in German offers current information on the numerous funding programmes to promote energy efficiency and renewable energies in Germany. It is a service of co2online in English or in German.
When biomass is used to produce energy, it is crucial that the emissions of CO2 and other climate-relevant gases caused by changes in land use, growing, harvesting, processing and using biomass to produce energy are taken into account. If these emissions are lower than those produced by fossil sources of energy, use of biomass can contribute to climate protection. A number of studies and publications commissioned by the Federal Environment Agency look at the ecological, economic and social impact of using and promoting biomass from the point of view of sustainability and avoiding negative effects.
Legislation to promote generation of electricity from biomass has been in force for years now; but is it having the intended effect? Where is there scope for improvement? A study monitoring the impact of the Biomass Regulation in German, which was commissioned by the Federal Environment Agency, provides evidence that the Biomass Regulation has had a positive effect. The study shows the environmental effects connected with plants that generate electricity from biomass.
Bioenergy plays a major role among the different renewable energies. However, since growing energy crops can compete for land with food production and possibly lead to rainforests being cleared, it is vital that sustainable production and use are ensured. How we can achieve this and what criteria need to be applied was investigated in a study commissioned by the Federal Environment Agency entitled Criteria for a Sustainable Use of Bioenergy on a Global Scale.
The economic success of a bakery is increasingly dependent on energy consumption. With the support of the Federal Environment Agency, the Schwarzmaier eco-bakery in German in Upper Bavaria was able to implement an environment-friendly and innovative energy concept that included a range of energy saving measures and the use of wood pellets, a climate-friendly energy source. This is described in a study on setting up an eco-bakery based on an integrated concept in German.
More and more people are using wood to heat their homes. That is good for the climate because wood releases the same amount of carbon dioxide when it burns as was stored by the tree when it was growing. But: wood-burning systems also emit particulate matter that is harmful to health. The Federal Environment Agency therefore believes that small wood-burning systems need to clean up their act. Modern wood-burning systems that emit relatively low levels of particulate matter are already on the market. Particularly low-emission pellet-burning stoves and pellet-burning boilers that emit significantly less particulate matter than conventional products are labelled with the “Blue Angel,” Germany’s ecolabel. More information can be found in the background paper on particulate matter from open fires and wood-burning stoves in German and the background paper on particulate matter in German.
The biogas sector can play an important part in protecting the climate and the environment. However, the prerequisite for this is that the best available techniques are applied in the construction and operation of biogas plants. This report prepared by the German Biomass Research Centre (DBFZ) with technical support from UBA takes stock of the techniques applied in the biomass sector, focussing on pollution control and plant safety aspects.
Use of land-based or offshore wind power is a key element in sustainable energy provision. The reasons it has developed so slowly since 2003 were examined in 2007 by a study on developing an environmental strategy for use of land-based and offshore wind power (in Germany) and proposals put forward for how to overcome the obstacles. A summary of the study was also published in English.
A map showing power stations and wind capacity in Germany PDF / 2.90 MB, in German gives an overview for 2008 of the installed capacity in megawatts of each German state’s wind farms. The list of power stations XLS / 119 KB, in German includes wind power stations with a gross electrical capacity of at least 100 MW.
Heat from the earth is a sustainable and renewable source of energy. It can be used for heating or to generate electricity.
Since the beginning of 2008, new terms and conditions for funding have been in force under the market incentive programme for renewable energies in the heating market. Electric heat pumps are becoming increasingly popular and their sales figures are rising. But what kind of environmental and energy balance do electric heat pumps have? To look at these questions, the Federal Environment Agency has produced a position paper: Wie ist die Umweltbilanz elektrischer Wärmepumpen im Vergleich zu anderen Heizungssystemen? (how does the environmental balance of electric heat pumps compare with other heating systems?)
Pupils can learn about how heat from the earth can be used for heating, cooling and to generate electricity in brochure in German written for Year 7 to 10. They can gradually gain the information they need for a presentation on the numerous possibilities offered by energy from the depths of the earth.