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. 27.8 million tonnes of CO2 equivalents were avoided in 1990, and 183.7 million tonnes in 2018.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.
  • As a result, avoided GHG emissions today are more than six 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. Nevertheless 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 2018 183.7 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 six times as much as in 1990.

Electricity generation from renewables accounted for about 77 % of the avoided emissions. 19 % can be attributed to the heating sector and almost 4 % are coming from renewable energies (e.g. biofuels) used for transport.

Through its Energy Concept, the Federal Government aims to reduce greenhouse gas emissions to 40 % below 1990 levels by 2020 and even 80 to 95 % by 2050 (BMWi, BMU 2010). Renewables are expected to make a particularly important contribution to achieving this goal. It is targeted that they should have a 30 % share of final energy consumption by 2030 and 60 % by 2050.

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 indicator shows the difference between assumed fossil emissions and the actual emissions. It also includes emissions from renewable energy sources occurring for example during production, installation or maintenance of renewable energy facilities. A detailed description of the calculation method can be found in the Emission Balance 2013 (UBA 2014, in German only; cf. Flyer UBA 2015).

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