Renewable Energy at a Glance

The expansion of renewable energy is one of the central pillars in Germany's energy transition. We want to make our electricity supply more climate-friendly and, in light of an increasing scarcity of resources, become less dependent on fossil fuels.

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 roughly 30% of gross electricity generation (cf. diagram). The 2014 figure had been approximately 26%.









Gross electricity generation in Germany in 2015*

Gross power production in Germany in 2015, Source: AG Energiebilanzen, as of: August 2016
* Preliminary figures, some estimated, ** Regenerative part; source: Working Group on Energy Balances, status: August 2016 (PDF: 81 KB)

The growing significance of renewable energy sources in the power sector is largely due to the Renewable Energy Sources Act (EEG). Since the adoption of the Renewable Energy Sources Act, the proportion of power generation accounted for by renewable energy has risen from roughly 6% in 2000 to 31.6% in 2015 according to preliminary data. By 2025, 40-45% of electricity consumed in Germany is to derive from renewables; the figure for 2035 is to be 55-60%.

Energy sources that drive forward the energy transition

Wind and solar energy are the most important renewables in Germany's energy transition. Additionally, biomass and hydropower, as well as geothermal energy, make valuable contributions to the sustainable energy supply. Wind energy plays a key role in the expansion of renewable energy sources towards an economically sustainable and environmentally friendly energy supply at reasonable prices and with a high level of prosperity. The use of wind energy now accounts for almost 15 per cent of the German power supply. 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. At the end of 2015, Germany's offshore wind power capacity in the grid reached around 3,280 megawatts (MW). The Federal Government is aiming to bring this figure up to 15,000 MW by 2030.

Solar power can be used directly in many ways. In photovoltaic installations, solar cells transform the radiation energy directly into electricity; solar-thermal power stations generate solar power; and solar collectors transform solar radiation into useful heat. More than 1.5 million photovoltaic installations with a total capacity of nearly 40 gigawatts accounted for the second largest amount of electricity generation capacity in Germany, behind approx. 26,000 wind energy installations (45 GW).

Biomass in solid, liquid and gaseous form is being used for electricity and heat generation and for the production of biofuels. Almost 60 per cent of the total final energy from renewable sources was generated by the different types of biomass used to this end in 2015.

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. In future, the level of funding for renewable energy in the electricity sector will largely be determined by competition. The introduction of the 2017 Renewable Energy Sources Act brings to an end the phase of technology funding in which prices were set by the government. The level of the fees paid for electricity generated from renewable energy will be determined by auction. This ensures that future expansion will take place at competitive prices. Auctions will be held for funding for onshore and offshore wind energy, PV energy, and biomass. Small installations are exempted from this system.

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.

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.