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German Energy Mix

Germany has recently announced a phasing out of its nuclear reactors. It proposes an increase in renewable energies to make up the shortfall, to avoid an increase in reliance on fossil fuels.

Energy Mix 2014

The energy mix in Germany in 2014: in Terawatt-hours (Twh)

Energy sourceGenerated power (TWh)Percent of totalChange over 2000
Net Export35.65.7%+5.8%

Non-renewable Energy (2014)

Energy sourceGenerated power (TWh)Percent of totalRelative change over 2000*Real change over 2000 (Twh)
Natural gas61.19.7%+1.2%+11.9
Fossil oil5.70.9%-0.1%-0.2

* Change in percentage of total electricity production from this source

Renewable Energy (2014)

Energy sourceGenerated power (TWh)Percent of totalRelative change over 2000*Real change over 2000 (Twh)
Domestic waste6.11.0%+0.7%+4.3

* Change in percentage of total electricity production from this source

Data Source: Arbeitsgemeinschaft Power Generation 1900-2014

Post-Nuclear Energy Mix

$CO_2$ Reduction commitments

The German government has the stated intention of reducing CO2 emissions to 40% below 1990 levels by 2020, and by 80% below 1990 levels by 2050.

The target implies replacement of fossil fuels by renewable energy sources. However, in 2007 the government authorised the building of 26 new coal plants. The new design allows for better management, lower loading and flexibility through combined cycle plant design, which will permit greater degrees of efficiency.

With the closure of 8 nuclear plants since the Fukushima aftermath decision, coal consumption has increased, highlighting the difficulties of maintaining the CO2 reduction commitments in the absence of the nuclear contribution.

At the end of 2022, there will be no more German nuclear reactors generating electricity. What is the plan for the new Energy Mix?

The goals of at least 40% of Germany's electricity from renewable energy by 2025, and 55-60% by 2035, seem much more feasible now than when the ambition was first formulated in the 2000 Renewable Energy Act. The intervening years have seen an unprecedented increase in German use of clean, renewable energies. The mix of wind and solar also allows flexibility in supply, and aids efficiency in the traditional dirty power stations by off-setting peaks in demand.

Waste To Energy

One of the most positive trends of the past decade is the compulsory incineration of municipal waste in Germany and Switzerland. Waste that cannot be effectively recycled or otherwise utilised is burnt to reclaim the energy it contains. This heat is used for district heating or for electricity generation. Not every country in Europe exploits this resource fully.

In this table the numbers stand for kg/capita:

Country Waste generated Material recycling Landfill/ disposal Incineration Composting/ digestion
2001 2013 2001 2013 2001 2013 2001 2013 2001 2013
EU 521 481 88 131 278 146 82 123 50 71
Germany 632 617 238 290 161 1 140 218 92 108
Switzerland 660 702 218 236 28 0 325 344 89 122
France 526 530 72 110 214 150 174 180 65 89
Italy 516 491 62 122 349 181 44 99 30 72
Austria 576 578 140 142 192 23 65 202 231 192
UK 691 482 54 133 473 165 43 102 19 77

Data source:

It can be seen from this table that the EU on the whole still landfills 30% of municipal waste, with no attempt to reclaim its value for recycling, reuse, composting, or energy content. Switzerland and Germany are the only countries to have almost eliminated this wasteful practice.

With the ever-increasing amounts of waste from a growing, high-consumption population, during the 1990s it became apparent that there was going to be a shortfall in available suitable land for landfilling. Germany and Switzerland therefore pioneered the transition to optimised waste management:

  • The quantities of all waste types are reduced as much as possible through better logistics, design and consumer awareness.
  • Waste is separated by consumers into the different categories at local collection sites.
  • As much of the waste as possible (glass, paper, PET, metals, organic residues, construction waste...) is fed back into the economy through appropriate material streams. Important here is the German June 2005 general ban on the landfilling of untreated waste: the decision is not only an economic one.
  • Substances which could present hazards for the environment and human health are also separately collected and the danger they present neutralised.
  • Where recycling or other use is not possible, waste is burnt to reclaim their energy content.

German Energy Policy

The BMUB (Federal Ministry for the Environment, Nature Conservation, Building and Nuclear Safety) seeks to create the legislative and incentive framework for a consistent improvement in energy efficiency, as a key element of their sustainable climate and energy policy. It is therefore a central component of the 28 September 2010 Energy Plan, and the Energy Policy Change Decision of 6 June 2011.

The goal is to reduce primary energy consumption by 20% of the 2008 level by 2020, and 50% by 2050; and electricity consumption by 10% of the 2008 level by 2020, and 25% by 2050; i.e. an average increase in energy productivity of 2.1% per annum.

Furthermore, it was decided, in the long term to reduce the primary energy demand of existing buildings with the aim of having a nearly carbon-neutral building inventory by 2050. The heating demand of buildings should be reduced by 20% by as early as 2020.

Germany is also working on a European level for an ambitious and binding package of measures to increase energy efficiency, so that across Europe there will be energy savings of 20 percent by 2020.

Efficiency of Electricity Production

Efficiency is a technical term for the conversion of one energy from one form to another. Energy is never lost (Second Law of Thermodynamics), so if a fuel is burnt entirely, 100% has been converted to other energy forms. However, much of the new energy may be 'unusable', such as sound. If heat is the objective of the conversion, as it is in a boiler and turbine power generator, the efficiency would be a measure of how much electrical power results from the burning of an amount of fuel.

Burning oil in a power plant has the purpose of heating water, which is converted to steam, which drives a turbine, which generates electricity. Burning petrol in a car considers efficiency of conversion to be the kinetic energy of motion, and heat is 'unusable', so is lost to the purpose of the conversion.

Energy sourceEnergy typeCurrent rangeTheoretical max.
Fuel cellchemical70-80%85%
Gas turbinechemical30-40%40%
Combined cycle*chemical and thermal40-60%60%
World TotalAll types39% gross33% net

* Two stage production: gas turbine then steam turbine

Heating Systems in New Residences

New accommodation in Germany (%)

YearMethaneHeat pumpDistrict heatingElectricityHeating oilWood/Pellets

Data source: AG Energiebilanzen e.V. 3-Quarter Report 2015

Content © Andrew Bone. All rights reserved. Created : September 2, 2015 Last updated :February 18, 2016

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