Renewable energy share rises to 16.6 per cent in 2018

More electricity sourced from renewable energies – momentum remains slow in heating and transport sectors

Photovoltaikanlage auf dem Dach des Umweltbundesamtes in Dessau-RoßlauClick to enlarge
Record levels of solar radiation in 2018 led to increased power generation from renewable sources.
Source: Martin Stallmann / Umweltbundesamt

Developments in 2018 in the renewable energy sector reflect a rather mixed picture: in the electricity market renewable energies covered nearly 38 per cent of overall gross final electricity consumption, due mainly to the year’s unusually sunny weather. In the heating sector, the share of renewables rose only slightly, virtually unchanged compared to previous years at just under 14 per cent. The transport sector edged up by 0.4 percentage points to a 5.6 per cent share. The share of renewable energy in gross final energy consumption for electricity, heating and transport overall increased from 15.5% in 2017 to 16.6% (preliminary figure) in 2018. This means Germany is closer to achieving its commitment of 18% by 2020, based on the updated Directive 2009/28/EC on Renewable Energy. On the whole renewable energies prevented roughly 184 million tonnes of greenhouse gas emissions (CO2 equivalents) in 2018. These new figures are based on initial calculations from the Working Group on Renewable Energies Statistics (AGEE-Stat) located at the German Environment Agency (UBA).

In order to reach the long-term climate protection and energy goals set for 2030 and 2050, the momentum which has developed in the electricity sector must be maintained and stepped up in the upcoming years. This applies all the more when sector coupling is making it possible to use electricity in other sectors. It requires the further expansion of production capacities in the electricity sector, and the year 2018 revealed great differences among the various production technologies. Although development of photovoltaic capacities regained momentum, there was a sharp decline in the output of new wind turbine installations.

The heating and transport sectors must gain significantly more momentum in the expanding renewable energies. The heating sector in particular, which accounts for about 50 per cent of total energy consumption, has made little progress in recent years. Achieving a large share of renewable energies in gross final energy consumption will also require a marked cut in energy demand in all sectors.

The current figures also point out how important the development of renewable energies is for climate protection. Replacing coal, gas and oil with renewables cuts energy-related greenhouse gas emissions. In 2018 renewable energies avoided emissions of some 184 million tonnes of CO2 equivalents. Wind energy made the largest single contribution, with nearly 75 million tonnes of CO2 equivalents avoided. The electricity sector accounted for about 141 million tonnes of CO2 equivalents, the heating sector about 35 million tonnes of CO2 equivalents, and biofuels about 8 million tonnes of CO2 equivalents.

2018 developments in detail:

Renewable energy share of gross final energy consumption: The calculation of renewable energies in gross final energy consumption according to the rules laid down in the Renewable Energy Directive (2009/28/EC) makes a comparison with the gross final energy consumption of all reported sectors in Germany. It establishes a correlation of the rate of development in renewable energies and overall development in energy consumption. Gross final energy consumption in 2018 amounted to about 2,600 billion kilowatt hours.

Following strong growth in renewable energy electricity production in 2017, record high solar radiation accounted for a further rise in 2018.

The total share of electricity produced from renewable energy sources in gross electricity consumption rose from 36% in 2017 to 37.8% in 2018. Electricity production from renewable sources in the amount of 225.7 billion kilowatt hours exceeded the previous year's level (216.3 billion kilowatt hours) by about 4 percent.

This positive development is due in particular to the extremely sunny weather in 2018 and the resulting higher production of electricity in photovoltaic systems. Electric power generation from wind power stations also increased over previous year levels – favoured by vigorous development at the end of the year. Electric power generation from biomass was at about the same level as the previous year. The long drought in 2018 meant shrinkage of power production at hydroelectric power installations: about 18 percent compared to the year before.

Growth in power generation contrasts with a rather mixed situation in the development of other production capacities: whereas expansion of photovoltaic capacity rose significantly to over 2,900 megawatts, expansion of onshore wind energy output slumped by more than 50 percent to about 2,300 megawatts, which is its lowest level since 2013.

According to the latest available data (March 2019), the share of heating generated from renewables is forecast to rise by 0.5 percent, from 13.4 percent in the previous year to 13.9 percent. Although total final energy consumption for heating and cooling was lower than in 2017 – due mainly to weather conditions – heating energy consumption from renewable sources in 2018 remained nearly unchanged from the previous year.

On the whole, the individual technologies diverged rather significantly in their development in 2018. Whereas strong growth occurred in solar heat (+13%) and geothermal energy and ambient heat (+9%), final energy consumption for biomass heating eased off slightly (-1%).

The increase in sales of biofuels along with the rising share of renewables in the electricity mix meant that renewable energy use in the transport sector experienced growth for the first time in several years. However, initial calculations show that total final energy consumption for the transport sector in 2018 – after several years of steady growth – fell slightly. As a result, the share of renewable energies in total final energy consumption in this sector was 5.6 percent, or 0.4 percentage points higher than the previous year.

Further information:

The Working Group on Renewable Energies Statistics (AGEE-Stat) works on behalf of the Federal Ministry of Economics and Energy to take stock of the use of renewable energy. Based on current data it has drawn up an initial assessment of the development of renewable energies in 2018. A background paper entitled on renewable energy development in Germany [Erneuerbare Energien in Deutschland – Daten zur Entwicklung im Jahr 2018] shows some interim results which will be updated later this year when official data is submitted.

Umweltbundesamt Hauptsitz

Wörlitzer Platz 1
06844 Dessau-Roßlau

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