At a glance
- Overall, primary energy consumption in Germany has been decreasing. Between 1990 and 2019, it fell by 14 %.
- By 2020, energy consumption should fall by 20 % compared to 2008, by 2030 by 30% and by 50 % by 2050. Since 2008 the energy consumption has fallen by an average of 1.0 % per year.
- The 2020 target will probably be missed by a significant margin. To achieve this goal, primary energy consumption in 2020 would have to fall by 10.2 % compared to the previous year.
- In order to achieve the 2030 target, primary energy consumption would have to be reduced by an average of 2% 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, including 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, 14 % less primary energy was used in 2019 than in 1990. As recently as 2006, energy consumption was still nearly as high as 1990. Since then, it has decreased significantly. In 2019, energy consumption was 12.815 petajoule (PJ), the lowest since 1990.
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 Federal Government's Energy Efficiency Strategy 2050 requires a reduction in primary energy consumption by 30 % in 2030 and by 50 % in 2050 compared to 2008 (BReg 2019, in German only).
In 2019 the decrease compared to the base year 2008 was only 10 %. This corresponds on average to an annual decline of 1.2 % but 1.8 % per year would have been required. In order to reach the 2020 target, energy consumption needs to be reduced by an average of 5.6 % per year. This requires the consistent implementation of measures laid out in the National Action Plan on Energy Efficiency (BMWi 2014).
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).