Indicator: GHG emissions avoided through the use of renewables

A graph shows the trend for greenhouse gas emissions avoided through the use of renewables for power, heat and transport. 28 million tonnes of CO2 equivalents were avoided in 1990, and 227 million tonnes in 2020.Click to enlarge
Greenhouse gas emissions avoided through the use of renewable energy sources
Source: German Environment Agency using data from AGEE-Stat Figure as PDF

Table of Contents


At a glance

  • Renewables are increasingly replacing fossil fuels in the fields of electricity generation, heat production and transport.
  • The annual greenhouse gas emissions saved in this way are more than eight times higher than in 1990.
  • The Federal Government intends to considerably expand the share of renewables to further reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

Environmental importance

All economic processes involve the use of energy. At present, fossil fuels such as coal, petroleum and natural gas are the primary energy sources in Germany and throughout the world. Burning fossil fuels releases greenhouse gases, which are the driving force behind global climate change.

One important way of protecting the climate is therefore to switch to cleaner forms of energy, particularly renewables. The indicator shows the contribution made by renewable energy sources to reducing greenhouse gas emissions and achieving climate protection targets.

Using energy more efficiently also plays an important role in achieving climate targets. However, measuring overall energy efficiency is a complex matter. The indicator ‘energy productivity’ provides a general measure for the energy efficiency of a national economy in terms of economic output for a given amount of energy.


Assessing the development

The use of renewables has expanded significantly in Germany in recent decades. In 2020 227 million tonnes of carbon dioxide equivalents were avoided through the use of renewables. These emissions would otherwise have been generated through the use of fossil fuels. That was more than eight times as much as the savings in 1990.

Electricity generation from renewables accounted for almost 80 % of the avoided emissions. 16 % can be attributed to the heating sector and 4 % are coming from the transport sector though the use of renewable energies (biofuels).

With its "Climate Action Programme 2030", the German government aims to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 55% below 1990 levels by 2030 (BReg 2019). According to the "Climate Action Plan 2050", emissions are to be reduced by 80 to 95 % by 2050 (BMU 2016). Renewable energies in particular are expected to make an important contribution to achieving these targets. For example, by 2030 a share of 65 % of gross electricity consumption and 30 % of total final energy consumption is to be covered by renewable sources. By 2050, both the generation and consumption of electricity in Germany are to be greenhouse gas neutral (EEG 2021, in German only). Further substantial efforts are required to achieve these targets (cf. ‘Greenhouse gas emissions’ and ‘Renewable energy’ indicators).



The calculation of the indicator is based on the assumption that energy generated from renewable energy sources today would otherwise have been provided by a fossil energy mix. The emissions saved through that renewable energy are illustrated in the indicator. It also includes emissions from renewable energy sources occurring for example during production, installation or maintenance of renewable energy facilities (supply chains). A detailed description of the calculation method can be found in the publication Erneuerbare Energien in Deutschland 2019 (UBA 2020, in German only).

More detailed information: 'Erneuerbare Energien - Vermiedene Treibhausgase' (in German only).