Record half year for renewable energy in Germany

But slower growth in wind sector

Bild zu Windkraftanlagen als Alternative für die Energieerzeugung im Kaliningrader GebietClick to enlarge
Energy production with wind power
Source: Stephen Meese/istockphoto

Electricity production in Germany from renewable sources of energy picked up speed in the first half of 2018. About 117 billion kilowatt hours (kWh) of electricity was produced in the first six months of the year – nearly 10 per cent more, or 10 billion kWh, than for the same time period last year. This is the outcome of official data from the Working Group on Renewable Energy Statistics (AGEE-Stat). The remarkably positive development is due in particular to growth in the wind energy sector, which has exceeded targets in recent years. Above-average wind conditions also aided this development but contrasts with a low level of expansion in the current year.

The unusually stormy month of January helped to achieve a record production of wind-powered electricity of more than 15 billion kilowatt hours. Compared to the low-wind period of January 2017, January 2018 alone generated a plus of 7 billion kWh, accounting for a large share of growth in the current year.

This positive snapshot of the situation in electricity production from renewables in the first half-year of 2018 must not obscure the challenges which nevertheless exist. The aim of the Federal Government is to increase the share of electricity produced from renewables to 65 per cent by 2030. This contrasts with the current downward trend in the expansion of wind energy farms compared to the record period 2015-2017. Only about 1,633 megawatts of net new installed onshore and offshore wind energy capacity was registered in the first half of this year, which is a decrease of more than 43 per cent against last year (2,880 megawatts) and the lowest level recorded in a first half year period since 2013. However, the new-build of capacity over the past four years has always been well above the development corridors envisaged in the Renewable Energy Sources Act (EEG). A much lower number of permits were registered in 2017 and 2018 – a development which should be followed closely.

In contrast, there was a slight increase in the installation of new photovoltaic systems. For the first time in years the aims of the development corridor of 2,400 to 2,600 megawatts per year are being achieved. The German Environment Agency (UBA) estimates that ensuring that the 65% goal is achieved by 2030 would require an annual installed capacity of wind and solar energy of at least 4,500 megawatts (gross).

The slump in solar installations starting in 2013 had a massive negative impact on the solar energy industry in Germany. A similar development in wind energy must therefore be avoided at all costs. UBA urges the Federal Government to announce the special call for tenders as provided for in the coalition agreement to thus ensure the necessary rate of expansion of 4,500 megawatts (gross) for both forms of energy. Subsequent measures will be needed to sustain this rate of development. Over the long term, the enacted expansion of the grid must be enforced and fossil fuel phase-out must be decided.

The numbers in detail

Electricity production: Total onshore and offshore wind energy installations produced 57 billion kWh – nearly 50 per cent of the total 117 billion kWh, with production from photovoltaics rising to 24 billion kWh (20 per cent of total). Hydropower plant production of some 10 billion kWh accounted for 9 per cent, biomass and biogenic waste amounted to 26 billion kWh (22 per cent of total), and geothermal power plants produced just under 0.1 billion kWh.

In addition to the favourable wind conditions at the beginning of year, the very sunny summer months have further advanced the growth of electricity production from renewable energy sources. New record highs were recorded at photovoltaic installations in May and June. Overall, this year's developments for all sources of renewables have exceeded performance in the same period of the previous year. Growth in other sources of energy (biomass, hydropower and geothermal) remained moderate.

Installed capacity: Data from the EEG register of installations of the Federal Network Agency (BNetzA) provides some early reliable information about the expansion of capacity in the first half of 2018. There are clear trends in the expansion of individual sources of energy. Whereas new-build of photovoltaic systems was greater than in the previous year (currently 1,359 megawatts and therefore 58% higher than in the same period last year (859 megawatts)), wind power expansion slowed as of the start of mandatory tendering. A net increase of 1,633 megawatts in wind energy has been recorded for 2018 – only about 70 per cent of the volume in the same period in the previous year (2,243 megawatts). Onshore wind energy had increased to around 5,000 megawatts (net) in 2017 and thereby exceeded the planned annual new-build of 2,800 megawatts. No new installed offshore wind energy installations have been registered in 2018.

Further information

The Working Group on Renewable Energy Statistics (AGEE-Stat), which records statistics on the use of renewables on behalf the Federal Ministry for Economic Affairs (BMWi), makes projections on the development of renewable energy based on the most updated data. Besides its annual publication "Renewable Energy Sources in Figures", AGEE-Stat also issues monthly and quarterly reports on renewables in the current year. Since 2016 the offices of AGEE-Stat have been located at the German Environment Agency in Dessau-Roßlau.

Umweltbundesamt Hauptsitz

Wörlitzer Platz 1
06844 Dessau-Roßlau