Renewables dominate German energy mix

Germany's Energiewende project made considerable progress in 2014. [Andrea & Stefan/Flickr]

2014 was a successful year for Germany’s Energiewende green energy project, with a study stating that for the first time, renewables led power production in Germany. EURACTIV Germany reports.

Germany’s green energy transition project, Energiewende, is boasting significant progress compared to one year ago. For the first time, 2014 renewable energy sources were the most important source in the country’s power mix.

With a share of 27.3%, renewables took first place, replacing lignite for the largest share in energy consumption. These are the results from a study titled, “The Energiewende in the energy sector: the state of affairs in 2014”, presented by the Berlin-based think tank Agora Energiewende.

At the same time, the study found that energy consumption has decreased by 3.8% over the last year. This is a sign that investments in energy-saving devices and equipment are paying off, the analysis says. As a matter of fact, there was high comparative growth in the economy reaching about 1.4%.

Because of developments in renewable energy sources and energy consumption, 2014’s harmful power generation through hard coal was reduced to its lowest level since 1990. Along with the mild 2013/14 winter, this contributed to a considerable reduction of carbon-dioxide emissions in the energy sector. Such emissions were also at their second-lowest levels since 1990.

“In 2013, we were still able to observe that undesired carbon-dioxide emissions increased parallel to capacity additions for renewable energy sources. During its time, we named this phenomenon the Energiewende paradox. Today we can determine that the trend has been broken. Renewables are growing again and greenhouse gas emissions are falling,” said Patrick Graichen, director of the Agora Energiewende think tank.

After doing the same with natural gas, renewables were finally able to crowd out harmful hard coal burning plants from the market. This is what the authors said is the main cause for the decline in carbon-dioxide emissions.

“Hard coal and natural gas are the losers in the power mix. Lignite burning power plants, on the other hand, continue to produce at a high level,” said Graichen.

In 2014, the wholesale price for power on the Leipzig power exchange decreased to a record low of €33 per megawatt hour (€38 in 2013).

As a result, the German energy market was very attractive for neighbouring countries. They imported 34.1 terawatt hours on balance. This amounted to 5.6% of energy produced in Germany, reaching a new record with an export balance that was 0.3 terawatt hours higher than in 2013.

“For the time being, we seem to have reached the maximum for electricity exports,” Graichen commented.

The trend for rising energy prices has also been broken. Energy prices for private as well as commercial buyers and industry decreased slightly for 2015 compared to the previous year.

The occurred because forwards on the exchange for 2015 power and Germany’s 2015 renewable energy surcharge are lower than they were in 2014. Many energy companies are passing these benefits on to their customers.

As most renewable energies are still more expensive than fossil fuels, a variety of support schemes have been put in place to accelerate their uptake and meet the EU's goal of sourcing 20% of its energy from renewables by 2020.

The European Commission warned last year that EU energy prices will continue to rise unless governments take steps to reduce green subsidies.

>> Read our LinksDossier: Supporting renewable energies: The 'transition' schemes

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