Germany’s energy consumption rising, renewables share falling in 2021

According to energy industry lobby group BDEW, total energy sector emissions reached 247 million tonnes in 2021, less than the sector’s 2022 target of 257 million tonnes. In a long-term trend, CO2 emissions from the sector were falling despite the ups and downs caused by the pandemic, while wind power stayed the most important individual power source, BDEW head Kerstin Andreae said. However, the share of renewables in electricity production dropped from about 44 percent in 2020 to just under 41 percent this year, slightly more than in 2019. Andreae argued that the new government’s target of bringing the renewables share in power use to 80 percent by 2030 would still be feasible. “This can be done, even if its very ambitious and requires a fast pace in the next years,” she said.

In order to reach the envisaged capacity of 200 gigawatts (GW) by the end of the decade, the government will face the challenge to add 15GW of solar PV capacity each year, almost three times the 5.8 GW added in 2021. The target of 100GW onshore wind power means that the number of turbines built each week must rise from currently 8 to about 30 if the modern installations are used, she added. The key for achieving this would be to reduce administrative hurdles: “Procedures have to be made more efficient and become digital wherever possible. And we need the required areas and skilled workers who put a faster energy transition into practice,” Andreae said.

Moreover, a faster expansion of grid infrastructure would be equally necessary to achieve the transition, as well as more gas power plants as a bridging technology before they are fully converted to green hydrogen use. She warned that, taken together, about 40GW of secure nuclear and coal power supply would drop out of the system by 2030, meaning new energy infrastructure to adequately replace them needs to be fully operational in less than a decade. “Supply security is the guarantee we need to make sure the climate targets are accepted,” she said.

Andree Böhling of environmental action NGO Greenpeace called the jump in carbon emissions a “poisoned present” by the previous government of conservative Angela Merkel (CDU). Even if Scholz’s coalition is not to blame for the current situation, it will still have to come up with a response quickly, he argued. “Measures of an action programme must tackle the root cause of rising emissions, meaning substantially higher coal use and growing power consumption,” Böhling said, calling for a ceiling on coal power use in the electricity system and ending coal use by 2030.

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