Renewable Energy at a Glance

Worker with pinwheels und solar systems in the background symbolizing renewable energies; Source: Pedro Castellano/Getty Images
© Pedro Castellano/Getty Images

Germany's energy supply is becoming "greener" from year to year, and the contribution made by renewable sources is constantly growing. In 2015, renewable energy covered 30 % of gross electricity generation. The 2014 figure had been 25,8 %

The growing significance of renewable energy sources in the power sector is largely due to the Renewable Energy Sources Act (EEG) (in German), in force since 1 April 2000, and its revision in 2014. Almost one in four kilowatt-hours of electricity now derives from wind, solar, biomass and other regenerative sources of energy.

Since the adoption of the Renewable Energy Sources Act, the proportion of power generation accounted for by renewable energy has risen from 6% in 2000 to 32.6% in 2015. We want to tap more of Germany's potential to boost electricity generation from solar and wind energy and to substantially expand the use of renewable energy. By the year 2025, 40 to 45% of electricity consumed in Germany is to derive from renewables; the figure for 2035 is to be 55 to 60%.

Gross electricity generation in Germany in 2015*

Gross power production in Germany in 2015, Source: AG Energiebilanzen, as of: December 2015
* Preliminary figures, ** Regenerative part; source: Working Group on Energy Balances, status: December 2015 (PDF: 309 KB)

Sun, Wind & Co.

Solar power and wind energy are the most important renewables in Germany's energy reforms. Additionally, biomass, hydropower and geothermal energy make valuable contributions to the sustainable energy supply.

Solar power can be used directly in many ways. Solar cells in photovoltaic installations, solar-thermal power plants and solar collectors use solar radiation directly and convert the radiation energy into electricity or heat.

Wind power now accounts for more than 9% of the German power supply. The use of the wind as an energy source plays a key role in the development of renewable energy sources towards an economically sustainable and environmentally friendly energy supply at reasonable prices and with a high level of prosperity. Alongside the increased expansion of suitable rural locations and the replacement of older, smaller turbines with modern and more powerful turbines - known as repowering - the expansion of offshore wind energy is playing a growing role. New wind turbines with a capacity of 1400 megawatts were installed in 2014, increasing total wind energy capacity in Germany's North Sea und Baltic Sea to 2,340 megawatts at the end of 2014. The installations erected in 2014 have been successively connected to the grid in the course of 2015.

Biomass in solid, liquid and gaseous form is being used for electricity and heat generation and for the production of biofuels. Just under two-thirds of the total final energy from renewable sources was generated by the different types of biomass used to this end in 2014.

Promotion of renewable energy

Until the Renewable Energy Sources Act was revised with effect from 1 August 2014, operators of plants that generate electricity from renewable energy sources were entitled to receive fixed remuneration from the transmission system operators for each fed-in kilowatt-hour for a period of usually 20 years. Now, the operators of new wind and solar power, biomass and other facilities will need to sell their electricity themselves on the market. For this they will obtain a "sliding" market premium from the grid operators. The market premium compensates for the difference between the fixed feed-in tariff and the average trading price for electricity. The market premium is optional for older power facilities and small new facilities. They can continue to claim a fixed remuneration instead.

The EEG surcharge was introduced to cover the costs connected to the funding of renewable energy plants in Germany. The total annual amount is calculated from the difference between the spending on remuneration and premium payments and the income from sales by the grid operators - known as the "differential costs". The cost difference has to be paid by the consumers and is passed on automatically to their electricity bill.

The revision of the Renewable Energy Sources Act in 2014 succeeded in stabilising the EEG surcharge. It will amount to 6.354 cents/kWh in 2016.
Since the reform oft the Renewable Energy Sources Act in 2014, procurment costs have been decreasing.; Source: BMWi; data from: own calculations based on data from www.netztransparenz.de and European Energy Exchange (* average futures market price of the preceding year)
Our information sheet (PDF: 124 KB) provides further data about the 2016 EEG surcharge.

Average Electricity Price Ordinance

Pursuant to the approval of the special equalisation scheme in terms of state aid together with the European Commission's Guidelines on State aid for environmental protection and energy, the electricity-cost intensity in the special equalisation scheme will in the future no longer be calculated on the basis of the actual electricity costs of the companies concerned, but rather on the basis of average electricity prices.

In its approval of the special equalisation scheme, the European Commission provides for a transition period of two years for the switch to average electricity prices. This transition period will end soon. Therefore, the requirements pursuant to the state aid rules have now been transposed into German law in the Average Electricity Price Ordinance, resulting in a more objective and transparent calculation of the electricity-cost intensity. This will have virtually no impact on the EEG surcharge.

The Länder and associations were invited to comment on the draft Electricity Price Ordinance until 25 January 2016. Provided that the Länder and associations have agreed to publication, their comments are available here.

On 17 February 2016, the Cabinet took note of the Average Electricity Price Ordinance (only in German) (PDF: 199 KB). The Ordinance entered into force on 24 February 2016. On 29 February 2016, the Federal Office for Economic Affairs and Export Control published this year's average electricity prices, which you can find here (only in German) (PDF: 133 KB) This will provide clarity for the companies affected as to what average electricity prices will be taken as a basis for determining their electricity-cost intensity - before this year?s application process starts.

Renewable energy in the heat and transport sectors

Renewable sources of energy are to be increasingly used not only to generate electricity. Renewable energy is to be increasingly used also to generate heat and in the transport sector. Within the heat market, the use of renewable energies is regulated by the Renewable Energies Heat Act (in German): under this law, builders of new buildings are required to generate a percentage of their heating requirements from renewable sources of energy, to undertake certain compensatory measures such as installing additional insulation, or to use combined heat and power systems or district heating.

In addition to the Renewable Energies Heat Act, the Federal Government uses the Market Incentive Programme (MAP) to increase the proportion of heat generated from renewable sources. Under this programme, assistance is provided primarily for existing buildings to promote the use of renewable energy technology in the heat market, such as solar thermal installations, wood pellet heating systems and efficient heat pumps.

In the transport sector, biofuels like bioethanol, biodiesel and biogas have been helping to cover the energy supply and to mitigate climate change for several years now. Renewables accounted for 5.3% of the fuel used in the German transport sector in 2015. In this context, 'renewables' is almost synonymous with biofuels, which are used to power cars, trucks, trains, ships, and aeroplanes. But renewables are also becoming ever more important when it comes to powering more electric vehicles. Electric mobility is low-carbon mobility and helps to bring electricity from renewable sources, such as solar and wind energy, into the transport sector.

Further information can be found (in German) at the BMWi's website on renewable energy: www.erneuerbare-energien.de.