European economic and fiscal woes, push-back from utilities and the influx of cheap imports from China have created stiff headwinds for Germany's homegrown renewable energy sector in recent years. Nonetheless, renewable energy reached a record 25.4 percent of Germany's total electricity consumption in 2014, according to the latest annual statistics from the Working Group on Renewable Energy Statistics (AGEE-Stat), an increase of nearly 2 percent from 2012.
Totaling 53,400 million kilowatt-hours (kWh) and up 5.1 percent year-over-year, onshore and offshore wind energy, at 34.4 percent, accounted for the greatest percentage of renewable electricity consumption in Germany. Despite a sharp scaling down in feed-in tariff (FiT) rates for residential solar photovoltaic (PV) installations, a total 30 million kWh of solar PV was consumed, up 13.7 percent from 26.38 million kWh in 2012.
As the German Embassy noted in a recent news item, “Solar energy implementation has been extremely successful in Germany over the past decade. Solar farms in the south broke records in 2013 for energy production and have continued to produce high levels over the winter."
Solar PV accounted for 19.7 percent of German renewable electricity and 9.7 percent of overall renewable energy supply in 2013. The German Embassy went on to note that the Photovoltaic Grid Parity Monitor ranked Germany's solar PV market is one of the most competitive and profitable in Europe, with Germany, Italy and Mexico considered to have the best economic framework and infrastructure for solar energy.
As stated in a March 26 article in the Germany.info news service:
“In Germany, solar energy is no longer luxury item; in fact, the latest edition of the study noted that the cost of solar energy and other energy sources are about equal.”
The supply of renewable electricity from biomass – a mix of biogas, biogenic solid and liquid fuels, fraction of waste, and sewage and landfill gas – rose 7.3 percent to 47.9 billion kWh, 31.4 percent of the renewable electricity supply mix.
Biomass and other renewable energy sources are also supplying more of Germany's heating needs. Though down from 9.3 percent in 2012, biomass sources accounted for 9 percent of energy consumption for heat in 2013.
Hydroelectric power supply totaled 21.22 billion kWh last year, down 2.45 percent from 21.755 billion in 2012, though up 20 percent from 17.671 billion kWh in 2011.
The extraordinary pace of renewable electricity and overall energy development in Germany becomes clearer when viewed from a longer term perspective. Renewable electricity generation capacity totaled 84.3 million kW, up from just 4.7 million in 1990, 12.3 million in 2000 and 77.1 million in 2012.
Motor fuel supply and consumption remains the weak link in the renewable energy industrial ecosystem. Taken together, biodiesel, vegetable oil, bioethanol and biomethane supplied 5.3 percent, the equivalent of 32,613 kWh, of Germany's motor fuel supply in 2013 -- down from 36,130 kWh and 5.9 percent in 2012.
Still, progress on the renewable motor fuel front is noticeable over the longer term as well. From a standing start in 1990, the percentage of Germany's motor fuel supply coming from renewable energy sources rose to 6.3 percent in 2006 and 7.4 percent in 2007 before slipping in the years since, according to AGEE-Stat's data.
Image credit: ANR2008/Flickr
Graphs credit: AGEE-Stat
An experienced, independent journalist, editor and researcher, Andrew has crisscrossed the globe while reporting on sustainability, corporate social responsibility, social and environmental entrepreneurship, renewable energy, energy efficiency and clean technology. He studied geology at CU, Boulder, has an MBA in finance from Pace University, and completed a certificate program in international governance for biodiversity at UN University in Japan.