Renewable energies continue to pick up speed in 2023

Wind turbines between agricultural land and a solar parkClick to enlarge
Renewable energies, such as wind and solar, will make Germany's electricity supply climate-neutral.
Source: reisezielinfo / Adobe Stock

The total share of renewable energies in energy consumption (electricity, heat and transport) rose to 22 per cent in Germany in 2023. In 2022, this share was at 20.8 per cent. This positive development was the result of a growth of renewables in the electricity and heat sector while overall energy demand declined.

A year of strong expansion for renewable electricity

According to current analyses by the Working Group on Renewable Energy Statistics (AGEE-Stat), more renewable electricity than ever before was generated in 2023 (272.4 terawatt hours (TWh), a plus of  7 per cent compared to 2022 with 254.6 TWh). While overall electricity consumption decreased due to economic factors (-5 per cent compared to 2022), the share of renewable energy in gross electricity consumption rose to a new record of 51.8 per cent.

Electricity production from wind energy and photovoltaics, was the main driver of this development providing three quarters of renewable electricity. In the case of wind energy, good weather conditions and the addition of 3,028 megawatts (MW) of installed capacity contributed to an increase in electricity generation of 14 per cent to a total of 142.1 TWh (2022: 124.8 TWh). Thus, wind energy further expanded its position as the most important energy source in the German electricity mix. For the first time, wind turbines generated more electricity than lignite and hard coal-fired power plants combined.

As concerns photovoltaics (PV), average weather conditions compared to the extremely sunny previous year led to a relatively small increase in PV electricity production despite strong increase in new PV-installations. Overall, the installed capacity of PV power plants grew by 22 per cent compared to 2022 (+14,595 MW), but solar power generation increased only slightly to 61.2 TWh (2022: 60.3 TWh).

Furthermore, a year with high precipitation led to an increase of 11 per cent in electricity generation from hydropower (2023: 19.6 TWh; 2022: 17.6 TWh). In contrast, electricity generation from biomass fell by around 5 per cent compared to the previous year (2023: 49.3 TWh, 2022: 51.7 TWh). The amount of electricity generated from geothermal energy stayed low at 0.2 TWh in 2023.

In order to achieve the national targets of the Renewable Energy Sources Act (EEG) and the targets set at European level by the Renewable Energy Directive (RED), the expansion of photovoltaics is on track, but the expansion of new wind energy plants on land and at sea must be significantly increased.

Biomass continues to dominate renewable heat

With a share of 83 per cent (170.6 TWh), biomass continued to be the most important renewable heat source in 2023, followed by 25.7 TWh from near-surface (and deep) geothermal energy and environmental heat (through heat pumps) with 12.5 per cent. While biomass was at a similar level as the previous year (2022: 171.9 TWh), the heat produced by heat pumps increased by a significant 18.3 per cent. A sharp rise in heat pump sales was noticeable in 2023. At 9.1 TWh, the share of solar thermal energy was around 4.4 per cent, just below the previous year's figure (2022: 4.8 per cent).

The total amount of renewable heat generated rose only slightly compared to the previous year (2023: 205.5 TWh, 2022: 203.3 TWh). However, due to mild weather and a weak economy the overall demand for heat declined at the same time (-6 per cent compared to 2022). Therefore, the share of renewable energy sources rose to 18.8 per cent (2022: 17.5 per cent).

Electrification ensures increasing share of renewable energy in the transport sector

In 2023, a total of 35.2 TWh of biofuels were used. This is around 2 per cent more than in the previous year (biodiesel less than +1 per cent, bioethanol +3 per cent and biomethane +19 per cent). Therefore, biofuels account for almost 82 per cent of renewable energy consumption in the transport sector. Higher electricity consumption - in particular due to a significant increase in road transport from 2.5 TWh to 3.7 TWh - combined with a higher proportion of renewable energy in the electricity mix also led to a significant increase in the calculated consumption of renewable electricity in the transport sector. Compared to the previous year, the consumption of renewable electricity in the transport sector rose by 21 per cent to a total of around 7.9 TWh. In 2023, final energy consumption in the transport sector totalled 587.8 TWh, a decrease of around one per cent compared to the previous year. Renewable energy sources accounted for around 43.2 TWh of this. This corresponded to a share of 7.3 per cent (2022: 6.9 per cent).

Renewable energies are an important economic factor for Germany

In 2023, investments in renewable energy systems rose sharply again and totalled 36.6 billion (bn) euros (2022: 22.3 bn euros). The strongest year-on-year growth was recorded in photovoltaics and geothermal/environmental heat, with a focus on heat pumps. At 23.1 billion euros (2022: 23.9 billion euros), the economic impetus from the operation of installations was slightly below the previous year's figures. Economic impetus from plant operation includes expenses for maintenance, operation and care of the plants as well as revenue from the sale of biofuels.

Important for climate protection: 250 million tonnes of CO2-equivalent emissions avoided through renewable energies in 2023

By replacing fossil fuels with renewable energy sources, fossil greenhouse gas emissions are reduced. The expansion of renewable energies is therefore an important measure for climate protection. According to preliminary calculations, a total of 250 million tonnes (mt) of CO2 equivalents were avoided in 2023 through the use of renewable energies. Of this, around 195 million tonnes of CO2 equivalents were attributable to the electricity sector, 44 million tonnes of CO2 equivalents to the heating sector and around 11 million tonnes of CO2 equivalents to the use of biofuels in transport.

Further information

The above figures come from the Working Group on Renewable Energy Statistics (AGEE-Stat), whose office is based at the Federal Environment Agency (UBA). AGEE-Stat analyses the use of renewable energies on behalf of the Federal Ministry of Economics and Climate Protection (BMWK). It has produced the background paper "Renewable energies in Germany - data on development in 2023" (in German) on the basis of currently available data. The data will be updated by AGEE-Stat in the course of the year once further reliable information is available.

In 2023, renewable energy share rose to 51.8% in the electricity sector, 18.8% in the heating sector and 7.3% in the transport sector.
The share of renewable energies in the electricity, heating and transport sectors rose again in 2023
Source: Umweltbundesamt