Significant lower share of renewable electricity in Germany in 2021

Use of biofuels also declines; only uptick is in heat from renewable energies

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

The share of renewable energies in gross electricity consumption will decline in 2021 – from 45.3 percent in 2020 back down to a level similar to 2019 of around 42 percent. This is the result of a preliminary evaluation by the office of the Working Group on Renewable Energy Statistics (AGEE-Stat) at the German Environment Agency (UBA). While total electricity consumption increased, five percent less electricity was generated from renewable sources than in the previous year due to weather conditions. There was extremely little wind in the first quarter of 2021 compared to 2020. In a year-on-year comparison, there were significantly fewer hours of sunshine. UBA President Dirk Messner said: “The German government's target of 80 per cent electricity from renewable sources in 2030 is central to climate protection and cannot be achieved at the current rate of expansion. The coalition agreement is right in claiming that we need effective measures quickly in the next few years to build more wind and photovoltaic plants.”

Renewable electricity production has risen steadily since 1997. A few years of low winds and little sunshine have usually been offset by the construction of new electricity production plants. However, this was not the case in 2021, also because 2019 and 2020 had added little new capacity.

The significantly colder weather in 2021 increased the demand for heat energy and thus also the use of wood and other biomass. More heat pumps were installed with heat generation from these sources increasing accordingly. Overall, the final energy consumption of renewable energies for heating and cooling increased by nine percent over 2020.

Total sales of biofuel declined by seven percent in 2021. Sales of biodiesel declined, whereas the consumption of bioethanol and biomethane increased. Because of somewhat increased use of renewable electricity in the transport sector, there is an overall decline in the use of renewable energies of six percent compared to the previous year.

Development of renewable energy production: Based on available data, AGEE-Stat estimates that electricity production from renewable energy sources will amount to about 237 billion kilowatt hours (kWh) for 2021 as a whole, which means a decrease of about five percent compared to the previous year (250 billion kWh). Since electricity consumption picked up again compared to 2020 – the year impacted in particular by the COVID-19 pandemic – the share of renewable electricity fell significantly from 45.3 percent in 2020 to an estimated 42 percent in 2021.

The main reason for the decline in renewable electricity generation is the sharp drop in electricity generation from wind power, which was due to weather conditions (down 11 percent). In 2021, production volume amounted to 118 billion kWh (of which 93 billion kWh is from onshore wind farms and 25 billion kWh from offshore sources). Wind energy thus contributes almost half of the total renewable electricity despite the decline. Electricity generation from photovoltaic systems rose by only about 1%, to 49 billion kWh, despite many new PV installations but due to less sunny weather. Biomass contributed a more or less unchanged amount of electricity compared to the previous year (50 billion kWh). Electricity generation from hydropower rose by almost five percent due to heavy rainfall in the summer months (19 billion kWh).

Development of the renewable power plant fleet: The construction of new photovoltaic units has increased steadily since 2014. Newly installed capacity in 2021 is expected to be just under 5,000 megawatts (MW), roughly the same level as the previous year. The total installed capacity will thus increase by about nine percent to just under 59,000 MW at the end of the year.

The trend in the onshore wind power farm is better than the poor development of the previous year. However, the addition of new capacity still lags significantly behind the 2014-2017 period. A record 4,891 MW was added in 2017, but the newly installed capacity in 2021 is expected to be only about one third of this figure. The installed capacity of the total stock would thus increase by only three percent – to a total of some 56,000 MW.

No new turbines were commissioned for offshore wind energy in 2021. Although further offshore wind farms are currently in planning and under construction, they will not be completed until 2022 at the earliest. The total capacity of offshore wind turbines will thus remain unchanged at around 7,800 MW at the end of the year.

Further information

The Federal Ministry mandates the Working group on renewable energy statistics (AGEE-Stat) for Economic Affairs and Climate Action to track the use of renewable energy. A preliminary record of renewable energy development in the electricity supply sector was drawn up based on available data.

The annual publication on renewable energy developments in Germany (Erneuerbare Energien in Deutschland – Daten zur Entwicklung im Jahr 2021) is due to appear in March 2022. The background paper publishes consolidated data from the power, heating and transport sectors and analyses developments.

Umweltbundesamt Hauptsitz

Wörlitzer Platz 1
06844 Dessau-Roßlau

Erneuerbare Energien Bilanz 2021

  1. Entwicklung der Bruttostromerzeugung erneuerbarer Energieträger seit dem Jahr 2001
  2. Entwicklung der Stromerzeugung aus Windenergieanlagen an Land und auf See sowie aus PV-Anlagen
  3. Entwicklung des Anteils erneuerbarer Energieträger am Bruttostromverbrauch seit dem Jahr 2001
  4. Entwicklung des jährlichen Zubaus neuer Stromerzeugungskapazitäten bei Windenergie und PV