At a glance
- Overall, primary energy consumption in Germany has been decreasing. Between 1990 and 2020 it fell by 33 %.
- The German government has set the target of reducing consumption by 20 % by 2020 compared with 2008, by 30 % by 2030 and by 50 % by 2050. Since 2008, energy consumption has fallen by an average of 1.7 % per year.
- The 2020 target is expected to be narrowly missed. According to preliminary data, primary energy consumption in 2020 will be 187 petajoules or 1.6 % above the target.
- In order to achieve the 2030 target, primary energy consumption would have to be reduced by an average of 1.5 % per year from 2020 onwards.
The use of energy plays an eminent role in the production of goods. We also require energy in various ways in our day-to-day life; for example for mobility, heating and electric appliances in our households.
However, using and generating energy is also associated with many forms of environmental pollution: Mining of raw materials such as coal or crude oil destroys the Earth’s surface. In addition, water is polluted, compromising local ecosystems. The transport of raw materials consumes additional energy, generating greenhouse gas emissions and other air pollutants that damage human health. Transforming and providing energy puts further pressure on the environment.
Therefore, lowering the primary energy consumption is an important part of an energy transition, alongside the switch to alternative and renewable energy sources.
Assessing the development
In Germany 22 % less primary energy was used in 2020 than in 1990. As recently as 2006, energy consumption was still nearly as high as 1990. Since then, it has decreased significantly. In 2020, energy consumption was 11,691 petajoules (PJ), the lowest value since 1990. This decline is relativized by the economic impact of the Corona pandemic, as in 2020 alone consumption fell by 8.7 % compared to the previous year.
However, the current trend is not enough to achieve the targets set by the Federal Government. In its 2010 Energy Concept (BMWi, BMU 2010, in German only), it decided to aim for a reduction in primary energy consumption by 20 % by 2020 and by 50 % by 2050, compared to 2008 levels. The Energy Concept targets also became part of the German Sustainable Development Strategy published by the Federal Government (BReg 2016). The German federal government's Integrated National Energy and Climate Plan (NECP), which is based on the EU Governance Regulation, aims at a reduction in primary energy consumption by 30 % in 2030 and by 50 % in 2050 compared to 2008 (BReg 2019, Energy Efficiency Strategy 2050, in German only). This requires the consistent implementation of measures laid out in the National Action Plan on Energy Efficiency (BMWi 2014).
In 2020 the decrease compared to the base year 2008 was only 18.7 %. To achieve the 2030 target, primary energy consumption must fall by an average of 1.5 % per year from 2020 on. Prior to the crisis year 2020 primary energy consumption decreased by an average of 1.1 %.
The total primary energy consumption is determined by the Working Group on Energy Balances (AGEB) on the basis of efficiency ratios. The energy carriers burnt in power stations and other combustion plants are multiplied by their calorific value. The efficiency ratio of electricity generated from wind, hydropower or photovoltaic is defined as 100 %, while in geothermal energy it is 10 % and in nuclear energy 33 %. Explanations of the calculation methods are published in the Preface to the Energy Balances (AGEB n.d.).
More detailed information: 'Primärenergieverbrauch' (in German only).