Renewables make nearly a third of Germany’s electricity in 2016

Renewables are expected to account for nearly a third (32 percent) of Germany’s electricity consumption in 2016.

This means over 191 billion kilowatt hours (kWh) of the gross amount of electricity consumed in Germany this year will have been generated from sun, wind, and other renewables by the end of the year, say energy industry groups BDEW and ZSW.

Germany's electricity - offshore wind turbinesElectricity generated from offshore windpower grew by 57 percent in Germany in 2016.
Image: erecting offshore wind turbines at Borkum in the North Sea. Credit: Trianel

This is a 0.5 percent increase on 2015, when renewables delivered just over 187 billion kWh or 31.5 percent of Germany’s electricity.

The federal government’s target – within the “Energiewende” or energy transition system – is that 35 percent of gross electricity consumption in Germany will come from renewables by 2020.

Huge increase in offshore windpower

This year’s figure reflects a huge increase in Germany’s electricity consumption from offshore windpower – up 57 percent on the 8.3 billion kWh produced in 2015, to about 13 billion kWh in 2016.

In contrast, consumption of electricity from onshore windpower – despite the erection of more wind turbines – has dropped nearly 6 percent from 70.9 billion kWh in 2015 to 67 billion kWh in 2016. The analysts say the drop is due to poor wind conditions in 2016.

However, onshore wind power still represents the largest share of the contribution to Germany’s electricity from renewables. It accounts for nearly 35 percent of renewables, followed by solar or photovoltaic (PV) power, which accounts for 20 percent.

Grid needs to catch up, action needed in other areas

BDEW chief Stefan Kapferer says:

“The steadily growing share of renewables in electricity consumption is positive and takes us closer to the goal of a low-carbon energy mix. However, we still need conventional production capacities to back up the ongoing conversion of our energy supply.”

He notes, however, that this is happening at the same time as pressure to expand the grid.

Earlier this year, Germany introduced new legislation to shift from a system of feed-in tariffs to one where energy prices are proposed by bidders.

Under feed-in tariffs, renewable energy generators could push ahead with new installations and know that prices would be guaranteed. Under the new system, prices will be far less predictable and decided more like an auction system.

The result effectively slows down the shift to renewables for Germany’s electricity – allowing grid expansion time to catch up.

ZSW chief Prof. Frithjof Staiss says:

“The current figures show that the Energiewende remains on track in the area of sustainable electricity generation. However, urgent action is needed in other areas. Fossil fuel consumption is still too high, especially in the transport sector, and so are greenhouse gas emissions for that same reason.”

He says policymakers, business leaders, and society at large must push harder to achieve climate protection goals and successfully transform the whole energy system.