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German Renewables

  • Solar Power in Germany
    • Germany has long led the world in promoting solar energy, in particular photovoltaic electricity generation. However, in 2015 China overtook Germany's 39.7 GW with its 43.6 GW.

      There were 1.58 million solar power systems in Germany by the end of 2016, for a total capacity of 41.75 GW (1.53 GW newly installed in 2016), generating 37.5 TWh (6.9%) of Germany's total electricity consumption. Despite 1.58 billion euro invested in new solar systems, generation fell by 0.8% compared to 2015.

      There is a clear correlation between the FiT (feed-in tariff, designed to subsidise solar energy producers) and direct solar investment. From 5.3 bn euro direct investment (DI) in 2007 and 49.2c FiT (per kWh for a medium-sized rooftop solar installation), DI rose to its peak of 19.5 bn euro with a FiT level of 35.4c in 2010. By 2013, DI had fallen drastically to 4.3 bn euro with 14c FiT. Since then DI has fallen consistently further to 1.58 bn euro at a FiT of 12.7c in 2016.

      With falling investment and the solar panel production industry in Germany in crisis due to competition from cheap Chinese imports, jobs have fallen from the peak in 2011 of 110,900 to 31.500 in 2015, below the 2007 level of 38,600. Nearly 50% of jobs were lost in 2013 alone (100,300 → 56,000).

      2016 German electricity generation
      SourceNet installed (2017) /GWPower generated /TWhPower generated /% of total 2016
      Lignite (brown coal)20.9134.924.9%
      Anthracite (hard coal)28.3299.418.3%
      Mineral oil4.19n/an/a
      Natural gas29.8946.48.6%
      WindOnshore 48.04
      Offshore 4.82
      Total 52.86
      Solar41.7537.5 (grid supply)6.9%

      Source: https://www.energy-charts.de/power_inst.htm

      Note: the figures for solar are for electricity supplied to the public grid. Own consumption by homeowners of solar power is not included.

      Solar irradiation map Germany
      Solar irradiation map Germany

      The German government launched the "1000 roofs program" in 1991 - the world's first major solar photovoltaic (PV) initiative. Under this programme, the government subsidised the installation of solar panels to generate electricity. Thanks to this programme, Germany gained valuable experience with solar installations, the housing industry began to experiment with means to meet the challenge of integrating renewable electricity generation, and consumers were introduced to the concept of small-scale solar power. By the mid 1990s, 2,000 grid-connected PV systems had been installed on German rooftops.

      The hundred thousand roof programme was subsequently launched in 1999, and prompted the mass production of photovoltaic panels. The programme ended in July 2003 having supported 55,000 installations and 261 MW of additional capacity.

      Germany has an estimated 2,300 km2 of roof and facade area on existing buildings (0.66% of the total land area) which are suitable for PV systems. At 20% efficiency, a square metre of rooftop PV panels can provide peak power of 33 watts. Therefore 30 m2 could supply one kWp (one kilowatt peak power). Middle Germany can typically expect 900 hours of full-load equivalent hours of sunshine - a single house installation, 40-50m2 inclined to optimal solar radiation exposure, could therefore generate 4 MWh per year.

      Germany has an electricity generating capacity of over 600 GW. If one-third could be met by PV, then Germany would need 200 GWp. This would require 1% of Germany's land surface to be covered in solar panels. For comparison, developed settlement and traffic areas occupy 47,000 km2 or 13.4% of the land area. Current rates of additional capacity would meet this level by 2035.

      Germany baseload 2020
      Estimated power demand over a week in 2012 and 2020, Germany

      An important instrument for the development of both solar and wind energies has been the FiT (feed-in tariff). This guarantees a price for solar power generated by homeowners who sell their surplus power to grid operators. Since the cost of solar power has been more expensive than the market price, but falling as economies of scale and improved technology take effect, there has been a policy of gradually reducing the level of the FiT for new installations over the years. This is regulated by the German renewable energy law (EEG).

      In 2016, 37.5 TWh (down 3.3% on 2015) was fed into the grid from photovoltaic arrays, from a total installed capacity of 40.85 GW PV at the end of 2016. At 1.00 pm on 8 May 2016, 47% of Germany's electricity demand was covered by PV, with a peak production of 28.5 GW. In the summer months, output of all PV systems often approaches or even exceeds that of all Germany's nuclear power stations combined.

      In March 2011, the first solar gas plant in Germany went into operation in the Morbach power plant. Solar energy is converted into synthetic natural gas and stored in gas form.

  • Renewable Energy Sources Act (Germany)
    • Germany has the world's most advanced project for transitioning its energy dependence from dangerous and dirty sources to clean renewables as quickly and efficiently as possible. The Renewable Energy Sources Act (EEG) is a series of laws since 2000 which have provided the legal basis for this ambitious project. The success of the German EEG has made it a model for the 149 countries which have made it official policy to adopt renewable energy as a key economic driver for the future.

      Goals and Principles

      In the interest of climate and environmental protection:

      • - ensure a sustainable development of energy supply
      • - reduce the economic costs of energy supply by including long-term external effects (internalisation of external costs)
      • - reduce consumption of fossil energy resources
      • - promote the development of technologies for the generation of electricity from renewable sources.

      Two basic principles are legally anchored to achieve the objectives:

      1. The connection and obligation of network operators to take up electricity from renewable energy producers.
      2. Remuneration rates for the imported electricity in the form of floating market premiums, the respective amount of which depends on the current electricity price on the stock market.
      Electricity Feed-In Act (1991)

      The world's first Feed-In Tariff (FIT) scheme to promote the use of clean energy. It successfully helped promote wind and photovoltaic power generation, as well as to a lesser extent biomass, cogeneration, hydropower, and geothermal.

      EEG 2000

      The experience gained from the 1991 law, permitted law-makers to develop a sophisticated set of rules, which proved to be even more successful in promoting renewable energy usage than even the most optimistic proponents expected. A lot of the credit is due to the late Hermann Scheer and Hans-Josef Fell (both from the Bündnis 90/Die Grünen political party).

      The three principles of EEG 2000 are:

      1. Investment protection through guaranteed feed-in tariffs and connection requirement
      2. No charge to German public finances. The scheme is funded by surcharges on consumers.
      3. Innovation by decreasing feed-in-tariffs (degression) for new installations. This mechanism assumes efficiency will increase over time.

      The 2000 law guaranteed a network connection, preferential delivery, and a government-set feed-in tariff, which is absolute (not tied to the prevailing electricity price), for 20 years. The size of the tariff varied with the technology and project scale. The scheme was funded by a surcharge on all consumers except large industry consumers (electricity-intensive manufacturers and the railways later were required to contribute as little as 0.05 ¢/kWh). For 2017, the unabated EEG surcharge is 6.88 ¢/kWh.

      The 100,000 roofs program (100.00-Dächer-Programm) ran till 2003, and offered low-interest loans for PV installations <300 MWp (megawatt-peak, or nominal power). In combination with the FIT scheme, this was very successful and raised PV capacity greatly. The limit on free-standing photovoltaic systems exceeding 100 kWp and the 1000 MWp cap on photovoltaic installations in total were both removed in 2004 (PV Interim Act (2003)).

      The 'Special Equalisation Scheme' (Besondere Ausgleichsregelung) was introduced in July 2003 to reduce the pressure on power-intensive industries (> 100 GWh/a) from the rising EEG surcharge. These exempted firms pay 0.05 ¢/kWh.

      EEG 2004

      This act retained the basic framework, but introduced some modifications and a differentiated tariff structure. Tariffs were increased for biomass, PV, and geothermal. Extensions to the EEG surcharge under the special equalization scheme. Railways exempt. First renewable targets: 12.5% for the share of renewable energy in gross final electricity consumption by 2010 and at least 20% by 2020.

      EEG 2009

      By 2009, renewable energy capacity in Germany reached a record 16,3% (2004: 9,3%), and the EEG surcharge had risen from 0.54 ¢/kWh to 1.32 ¢/kWh. Adjustments were made to increase renewables percentages, and to extend industry privileges, although PV tariffs were reduced. A Repowering Bonus was introduced to support onshore wind, and the offshore wind tariff was raised. Early starter bonus for offshore wind farms in service before 2015. Target set of 25 GW installed capacity for wind by 2030 (in 2015 it reached 44.9 GW!).

      The degression rate for PV was tightened from 5% to 8-10% (i.e. the surcharge on consumers to subsidise producers of PV power was reduced). This did not discourage investment in PV, and was supported by a new 'self-consumption incentive', fixing a price of 25.01 ¢/kWh for power consumed by PV installation owners consuming their own generated electricity.

      A guiding principle here is the 'corridor'. This is a flexible degression cap, designed to ensure the PV adoption remained within a certain range. However, PV growth had reached 10.6 GW newly installed capacity in 2009, and the incentive costs were becoming onerous. The PV Acts (2010) and (2011) consequently adjusted the growth-dependent degression rates in two stages to better control PV growth.

      The renewable targets in the 2009 law were increased to at least 35% (previously 20%) of total electricity production by 2020, 50% by 2030, 65% by 2040, and 80% by 2050. The national Energy Concept was released in September 2010, and it was decided to phase out nuclear power in June 6, 2011, following Fukushima.

      EEG 2012

      This revision, Renewable Energy Sources Act (2012), was introduced to expand the use of renewable electricity generation while containing the costs, and enhance market and grid integration by means of a market premium (the difference between the EEG tariff and the average spot market price) scheme.

      Grid integration of PV could lead to grid overloading, and grid operators were now entitled to limit the feed-in of PV power where necessary. Compensation was paid to producers for any lost income. Frequency incompatibility was also regulated by an ordinance governing the retrofitting of PV systems to handle frequencies above 50.2 Hz.

      Degression of onshore wind was increased slightly, but was postponed for offshore till 2018. Starter tariffs were increased but restricted to 8 years duration (down from 12 years).

      The number of firms exempt from the tariffs rose from 734 in 2012 to 2057 in 2013, accounting for 97 TWh of exempted power (15% of national total).

      EEG 2014

      This is the current version of the law, and specifies the transition to an auction system for most technologies by 2017. The share of renewable energies in the power supply is to be increased to 40 to 45% by 2025 and to 55 to 60% by 2035, and 80% by 2050.

      The Feed-In Tariff was largely phased out by the 2014 edition of the EEG, whereby the government no longer sets the funding rates, but these are set by auction. Any shortfall is made up by the EEG surcharge. Criticisms of the plan fear that the deployment corridors are set too low to meet the 2050 target of 80% of all electricity to be produced by renewables. In 2015, the aggregate EEG surcharge totalled €21.8 billion and the EEG surcharge itself was 6.17 ¢/kWh.

      Amendments to the original EEG added the concept of a market premium in 2012. And the use of deployment corridors and auctions to set the levels of uptake and remuneration, respectively, in 2014.

      Paragraph 1 EEG: The power grid operator nearest to an EEG generating plant is obliged to connect and give priority to the electricity generated (§8). The payment of the fixed floating-rate market premium is, in principle, anchored as a legal obligation and may not be made dependent on the conclusion of a separate contract between the system operator and the network operator. (Coupling ban §4):

      EEG 2017

      Originally referred to as EEG 2016, this act comes into force on Jan 1, 2017. The act has three guiding principles:

      1. to keep within agreed deployment corridors for the development of renewable energy
      2. to keep to a minimum the overall cost arising from the Renewable Energy Sources Act
      3. to use auctions to create a level playing field for all of the players involved

      The EEG 2016 edition makes a significant change to the structure of how renewable energy is integrated and subsidised in the general electricity supply grid. Along with holding development to within pre-established 'corridors', and the need to keep costs down (Germany now has the second most expensive electricity in Europe) for consumers, an auction system has been proposed. This is supposed to create a 'level playing field' for all players. Green groups fear this will slow or even reverse successes so far.

      Kurt Bock, CEO of BASF and President of the VCI (Verband der Chemischen Industrie), stated in an interview with the Süddeutsche Zeitung (5.12.16) that since the chemistry industry was extremely energy intensive, the EEG-tariff risked making German industry uncompetitive. "The energy costs in Germany are extremely high, and have risen significantly with the EEG-tariff, which currently is just on 7 cents per kWh. ... almost 90% of companies in the chemicals industry pay the tariff, uncapped, because they qualify for exemption under the rules 'Befreiungsregeln'.

      "There are some energy-intensive companies which are indeed exempt. The political world has recognised that if very energy-intensive sectors were not exempt, the competitive disadvantage would be so significant, that investment would be lost."

  • Renewable energy in Germany
    • Germany is a world leader in its development of renewable energies. With the Renewable Energy Sources Act (EEG) series of laws since 2000, the energy transition has taken real steps towards the ultimate goal of a sustainable economy, free from the dependence on fossil fuels or nuclear power.

      Theoretically, an autonomous complete supply of Germany with renewable energies (R.E.) from domestic sources is possible. Most scenarios foresee an integrated system, In which the security of supply is ensured through export / import with neighboring countries. A key factor for this is the problem of the necessary storage requirements.

      A report by the German Council of Economic Experts (Olav Hohmeyer, chief author of the expert report) concluded in 2010 that Germany would be able to completely cover its electricity supply from renewable energies in 2050. There are a number of scenarios, most of which involve exchanges with neighboring countries, to increase the balancing out of the power supply and demand. e.g. periods of low wind in Germany can be compensated by stored hydropower from Norway.


      Wind in 2004 had a total output of 48 GW. At the beginning of 2014 it was 318 GW. Anfangs 2014 war es 318 GW.

      Potential: ca. 2400 TWh/a (in 2015 Germany consumed 635 TWh). According to the Atlas of RE Potential released by the German Agency for Renewable Energies in January 2010, land-based wind energy could cover one fifth of German electricity demand by 2020. This would require needs about 0.75% of the country's land area.


      Solar thermal power plants in 2004 had a total output in the electricity sector of 0.4 GW. At the beginning of 2014 it was 3.4 GW. Solar thermal energy in 2004 has a total output in the hot water sector of 98 GW. At the beginning of 2014 it was 326 GW.

      Only 2.5% of the suitable building surface areas is being used for solar electricity or heat by the end of 2016.

      The Fraunhofer Institute for Solar Energy Systems (ISE, Freiburg, Breisgau, BW) concluded that the supply of all German electricity and heat would be technically feasible through renewable energies only by 2050, and this transition would not have an unacceptable financial impact. The ISE (Institute of Solar Energy) holds the world record with TopCon technology, with an efficiency of 25.1% for the silicon-solar cells contacted on both sides. And for epitaxially grown silicon solar cells, a short-circuit current of 39.6 mA / cm3 is achievable. (Frauenhofer ISE Annual Report)


      Geothermal power plants in 2004 had a total output of 8.9 GW. At the beginning of 2014 it was 12 GW.


      Hydropower in 2004 had a total output of 715 GW. At the beginning of 2014 it was 1,000 GW (1 TW).


      Bioenergy in 2004 had a total output in the electricity sector of <36 GW (227 TWh). At the beginning of 2014 it was 88 GW (405 TWh).

      Ethanol production 2004: 28.5 bn litres. 2014: 87.2 bn litres.

      Biodiesel production 2004: 2.4 bn litres. 2014: 26.3 bn litres.

      According to the Potential Atlas issued by the Renewable Energy Agency in January 2010, bioenergy can cover 15% of the total electricity, heat and fuel supply by 2020, requiring a cultivation area of 3.7 million hectares (today: 1.6 million hectares).


      The Fauenhofer ISE, Freiberg in Breisgau, opened a new center for storage and heat transformation technologies in 2015. Topics: Battery system for photovoltaics and mobility, redox-flow batteries, hydrogen generation by electrolysis, high-temperature storage for solar thermal energy and heat pumps and refrigeration units for power, gas or heat applications.


      According to the ISE study, to reach the target of 100% R.E. would involve the energy used for the heating of buildings to be reduced to around 50 percent of the value from 2010, by means of energetic building renovation.


      In 2008, the Federal Ministry for the Environment, Nature Conservation, Construction and Nuclear Safety (BMU) released a study predicting that renewable energies in Germany will reach a share of 30% of the electricity supply by 2020. This target was already exceeded in 2015.

      With the 2011 nuclear phase-out decision, the foreseen portion could be increased. According to the 2014 decision of the Federal Government, the green electricity share is to be increased to 40-45% by 2020 and 55 to 60% by 2035.

      Investment: 2004: 39.5 bn $US. 2014: 214.4 bn dollar US.

      Countries with RE support mechanisms: 2004 = 48. 2014 = 144.

      [Source of above data: https://de.wikipedia.org/wiki/Erneuerbare_Energien]

  • PV in Germany
    • PV (Photovoltaics) is the second largest renewable energy source in Germany, behind wind. It experienced a boom-bust development around 2009-2012 in both installed capacity and equipment manufacturing. Nevertheless, the will still exists to create a viable alternative to damaging fossil fuel electricity by covering German roofs with solar panels and integrating the generated power into the national grid.

      The average annual solar irradiation varies from about 1100 kWh/m2 in northern Germany to more than 1300 kWh/m2 in the south.

  • Wind power in Germany
    • Germany generated 12.3% of its electricity in 2016 from wind turbines. This was down from 13.3% in 2015. This amounted to 79.8 TWh, compared to nuclear power (14.1% = 91.2 TWh). About 10% of wind power is generated offshore.

      In 2016, 5,443 MW of new wind power capacity was newly installed in Germany, for a total of 50.018 GW capacity. Each turbine generates an average of 1.77 MW. The latest onshore turbines stand 128m from the ground to the rotary hub, and the blades have a diameter of 109m. These can generate 2.848 MW.

      At the end of 2014, 149,200 people were working in the sector. By the end of 2015, this number had fallen to 142,900.

      45.9 billion euro was invested in new wind turbines from 2007-2015.

      Wind turbines and energy in Germany, 2000-2016:

      Wind TurbinesInstalled Capacity / GWElectricity Generated / TWh
      (947 offshore)

      Source: Statistisches Bundesamt, BMiWE

      The lowest power generated in 2016 was in June: 3.4 TWh (0.6 offshore, 2.8 onshore). The highest power generated in 2016 was in February: 10.0 TWh (1.2 offshore, 8.8 onshore). The record power generated was 36.6 GW on 8th February 2016 at 21:45. In total wind generated 12.3% of the total electricity production in Germany.

      Windkraftanlagen in Deutschland
      Map showing the distribution of windparks in Germany, 2011, courtesy of EEA