Are Germany's Energy Transition Plans Working?

Authored by Ryan Opsal via,

Considering the established political imperatives underpinning the German energy transition (Energiewende) and the overall push toward greater use of renewables in the energy mix, let’s look at some of the outcomes of this transition - specifically natural gas imports from Russia and fossil fuel consumption.

A boost in renewables would carry these two ostensible goals, and it's worthwhile to gauge progress in both areas.

In these scenarios, it’s beneficial to look at the end-use of primary sources of energy, to understand how Germany is ultimately using its energy. So instead of production data, the focus will be on consumption.

For example, as we’ll cover later, Germany produces a lot of renewable energy, but it doesn’t consume all that energy, and therefore will not have any fundamental impact on the consumption mix.

BP's statistical workbooks (data used in this article is sourced from BP’s 2017 Statistical Workbook unless otherwise noted) provide good time-series data that can be used to understand Germany's transition in this context.

The following graph draws on BP’s data and furnishes a good look at energy consumption in Germany, going back to 2000.

(Click to enlarge)

In specific areas, Germany has been successful in meeting its objectives, and this appears to be at least partially due to increases in the production and consumption of renewable sources of primary energy.

Since 2000, renewables consumption in Germany, including biomass, solar, and wind (excluding hydroelectricity) has grown over 1,000 percent. This growth represents a substantial increase, bringing consumption from 3.2 Mtoe (14.3 Twh) in 2000 to 37.9 Mtoe (167.4 Twh) in 2016.

There is still quite a discrepancy, however, between Germany’s production of renewable energy, and its consumption...

Around one-third of the energy produced in Germany in 2016 was from renewable sources, but only 12 percent of the energy consumed in the same year was from renewables, creating a gap of 23 percent. This is attributed to both exports and waste, as the distribution network simply cannot keep up with production surges, although progress is being made on this issue.

For instance, it was recently reported that on January 1, 2017, Germany met, for the first time, 100 percent of its consumption needs through renewable sources of energy, with wind providing approximately 85 percent of national demand.

As noted in both the graph above and the pie charts below, the other notable change since 2000 is the reduction in the use of nuclear power.

The data demonstrate a dramatic 23 percent decline in nuclear power consumption from 2010 to 2011 from 31.8 Mtoe to 24.4 Mtoe, following the immediate closure of several nuclear power plants throughout the country, and reduced output from the remaining plants.

After the CDU and FDP agreed to extend the use of nuclear plants in 2009, the decision was immediately reversed following the disaster at the Fukushima power plant in Japan, closing several plants within a month, and reducing the output of the remaining plants.

The general population in Germany has been wary of operating nuclear power plants since the Chernobyl disaster, and the recent shuttering of these facilities has enjoyed widespread public and political support. Over this entire period, from 2000 to 2016, nuclear power consumption dropped by a full 50 percent.

Following nuclear energy, the second most significant reduction in power generation over this period is from petroleum, although it still makes up the largest share of the energy consumed in Germany since 2000 and has maintained relatively stable levels over the 17-year period.

Over 50 percent of the increase in renewables over this time has gone to cover reduced generation and consumption of nuclear power, and the rest of that growth covers the reductions in the use of petroleum.

Overall, the data demonstrate slight decreases in coal and petroleum consumption, while the use of natural gas is mostly flat.

(Click to enlarge)

Due to the significant drop in nuclear power consumption, Germany has been unable to reduce fossil fuel consumption as much as previously hoped. This shortfall is especially the case with natural gas, which has been a central cause for concern given the political leverage held by massive Russian exports to Germany, and to the European Union more broadly. On this issue, progress has been limited, and seems to be getting worse.

As the table below demonstrates, Russian natural gas exports to Germany are only increasing, and show no signs of abatement, mirroring anecdotal reports and the steady progression of the Nord Stream 2 pipeline.

Total imports, including those from Russia (except a 2011-2012 decrease due to supply diversions resulting from extreme cold weather), have increased while both domestic production and consumption have decreased.

In 2016, Germany sourced over 46 percent of its natural gas imports from Russia, up from 40 percent in 2006. The other two key suppliers, Norway, and the Netherlands, both maintained relatively stable exports over the period examined.

Receiving outsized amounts of energy imports from a single source, even aside from political considerations, is fraught with risk. If anything occurs along the entire supply chain — from source to consumer — to disrupt the gas flow, it heralds a potential crisis that could not be sustained indefinitely. Add in the politically contentious relationship between the European Union and Russia (over a host of issues), and the energy supply situation has the potential to become a significant problem.

Sustained increases in gas imports from Russia should worry German politicians since it will reduce political operating space in the case of any future disagreements.

(Click to enlarge)

However, something else interesting does show up in the data: the significant and growing increase in natural gas imports over domestic consumption.

Beginning in 2009, a noticeable jump in natural gas imports compared to domestic consumption occurs, with the country importing 7 percent more gas than it consumed. Before this year, Germany roughly imports enough to cover the difference between consumption and production, as one would expect.

After 2009, trend of excessive imports is maintained, and then accelerates in 2013 with imports over 13 percent of what is required, and then 27 percent over in 2015.

The amount settles to 17 percent in 2016, meaning Germany is systematically importing more natural gas than is necessary for domestic consumption. This discrepancy appears to be due to its central location within Europe and its developed natural gas network, which seems to be taking on a redistribution role for European markets.

Perusing Germany’s natural gas re-export data confirms this, with gas exports going primarily to Belgium, Netherlands, France, Austria, Poland, Switzerland, Italy, and the United Kingdom.

These exports represent a relatively new development that appears to be a sustained effort toward making Germany a European gas hub.

In the two critical areas outlined, Germany has had mixed results. The government has been able to slightly reduce energy consumption overall but hasn't had much success in the reduction of fossil fuel use. However, the impressive gains in renewables consumption have allowed the country to wean itself off large amounts of nuclear power successfully.

Renewables generation is increasing, with more wind and solar power ultimately finding its way to consumers, whether through more effective distribution networks or storage. However, anyone that had hopes of diversification of natural gas supplies away from Russia will be sorely disappointed at the progress made so far, and by the current trajectory of Germany sourcing.

Quite the opposite, Russian gas exports will continue to grow, and form a larger part yet of the consumption mix.

Aside from the negatives, the growth in renewables and the parallel development of flexible power systems should be viewed as an investment in a more favorable, sustainable future energy mix — something very close to fruition.


new game Fri, 02/23/2018 - 05:08 Permalink

renewable energy? at what cost? tax the fuk out of people under the guise of save the planet and add some major big league graft and walla, we saved the earth, whilest al gore types live in a 47,000 sq ft mansions....

one big fuking joke...

it has to be subsidized because it can't economically stand on it's own til 150/bbl oil.

simple shit maynard, all else is fleecing of idiots by wonks...

Jethro Dull roddy6667 Fri, 02/23/2018 - 06:12 Permalink

Yes,  and them some.

Solar and wind require increased installation of inefficient peaker natural gas turbines to cover times when they are not available. Install renewables = burn more gas. The natural gas industry, turbine builders, and, vexatious litigation rentiers filing lawsuits over NG pipelines crossing their land love renewables.

Here in NC, Duke Power is having a hard time installing a natural gas pipeline. They usual suspects are involved: Sierra Club... Even the NAACP is trying to get a piece of the action claiming natural gas pipelines disproportionately impact minorities.

In actuality, it was the Legislature and the Perdue Administration swept into office on Obama coattails in 2008 that put in an insane Renewable Energy Policy (REP). Even though out of office these same groups are trying to get a second pound of flesh.

Insofar as this article, is that Name Plate Rated Capacity, or, actual generation? Germany is paying through the nose for spinning reserve. And, having to sell below their total cost curve at times to have France take electricity off their hands.

And, insofar as Russia and Ukraine, yes, we spoiled for a fight there, because, we need to penetrate Europe's spot market for NG to keep rigs going here.

In reply to by roddy6667

Teja Jethro Dull Fri, 02/23/2018 - 06:23 Permalink

Actually I wonder if the article in any way distinguishes betwen primary energy consumption (including heating and transportation) and electricity generation. Renewables play a huge role for electricity, but almost none for heating except electric heatings, rarely used these days and electric cars.

Gas of course will rise because it is an excellent reserve for renewables, and in itself much more efficient (in regards to CO2/MWh) than coal.

But the most important goal must be energy usage efficiency - smaller efficient cars, less wasteful electrical appliances (think LED), less unnecessary car traffic, efficient heating systems eg using the heat produced by power plants, better isolation and so on. In this regards, Germany and the EU are much better than the U.S. with their crap pickups and such.

In reply to by Jethro Dull

Stuck on Zero Teja Fri, 02/23/2018 - 09:40 Permalink

Actually, "electric heating" is increasing at a tremendous rate. Resistance heating is nearly gone but heat pumps combined with geothermal loops are growing rapidly. It's an incredible thermal waste to heat a home with natural gas. Gas burns at 2000 degrees and the house needs only a 20-30 degree boost. A heat pump with geothermal supplies this efficiently. Another huge boost in energy efficiency would come with more co-generation at a small scale i.e. totem plants.

In reply to by Teja

bluecollartrader Stuck on Zero Sat, 02/24/2018 - 03:11 Permalink

Exactly. Heat pumps are tremendously efficient, offering a 300% output for every 1 unit of energy input. I know, I switched to a Fujitsu Heat Pump from petroleum heat in Feb 2017. 

As to the argument that the electricity I use is generated with petroleum and therefore is not worthy of note, it presumes the electricity wasn't generated already; that it was made especially for me. That is not the case.

In reply to by Stuck on Zero

Doctor Faustus Jethro Dull Fri, 02/23/2018 - 08:23 Permalink

How inefficient are these natural gas peaking plants you speak of? Combined-cycle units (where waste heat from the gas turbine is used to create steam for a second turbine) are supposedly reaching 85+% efficiency (compared to 30-35% efficiency for coal-fired plants). 

I work in the power generation industry and yes, Duke Power, is one of my customers. The renewable energy stuff is a crock; without subsidies, it would never fly and we're ALWAYS going to rely on fossil-fueled power generation if we expect to have reliable energy. And that includes nuclear power as well.

In reply to by Jethro Dull

Joiningupthedots Fri, 02/23/2018 - 05:22 Permalink

So Germany is becoming a gas hub/distribution centre for Russian gas

Poland aspires to be a gas hub/distribution centre for American gas

What could possibly go wrong LOL

richCat Joiningupthedots Fri, 02/23/2018 - 07:00 Permalink

Strange isn't it when Germany imposed sanctions against Russia for it's incursion into Ukraine; my guess that Jerry is paying over the odds for Russian gas, whilst German businesses cannot trade with Russia. Either someone is bending the rules or Russia could at anytime ration the gas supply in the demand for more cash.

Rather interesting when Germany has offered to pile in more cash to the EU budget as the consequences of Brexit, just illustrates Europe's paymaster will not flinch in doing anything to satisfy itself.

The Swiss know too well the dangerous dependency on Russian gas.

In reply to by Joiningupthedots

An Shrubbery Fri, 02/23/2018 - 05:23 Permalink

Wind power can actually pay for itself, solar not so much. It takes 20 years on average for a solar panel to produce as much energy as it took to make the damn thing in the first place. Which is about it's useful life span. Ethanol has been good for the farmers, keeping corn prices up, but not so good for 3rd world eaters, who have to pay more for food. But whatever keeps the idiots happy, and feeling self-righteous, driving their priuses and "saving the planet."

Take-a-Dump An Shrubbery Fri, 02/23/2018 - 06:23 Permalink

And although spurious claims persist online that solar panels never generate as much energy in their lifetime as is used in their production, the time it takes for a modern solar panel to recoup its "embodied energy" is minimal. "It's between six and 18 months depending on where it's made and the way it's made, for a 25-year life. So for 95 per cent of the life of the PV system it's energy positive," Professor Blakers says.…

In reply to by An Shrubbery

BobEore Take-a-Dump Fri, 02/23/2018 - 07:29 Permalink

Don't confuse the kiddies with a bit of scientific data.

Haters gonna hate... solar... cause it's everything a statist minded 'central planner' type HATES... bout free livin folk.

Scratch a 'lubbertarian' wing nut = a closet state capitalist with a pathological need to control everything/everybody in sight.

In twenty years or less - every one still at large the neo feudal dsytopia... will be fully mobile and independently powered.

FEMA dwellers = not so much

In reply to by Take-a-Dump

Big Daddy An Shrubbery Fri, 02/23/2018 - 12:13 Permalink

The answer is globalism, domestic fossil fuel cronies have spent truckloads denying climate change to keep America on the black, goey needle and as a result, China has taken over panel production. Newer panels produce 4x what they used to and can produce power at leaner angles to the sun, even collecting from light both in and outbound. All that fossil fuel money thats been buying congress for the last 100 years is your reason. First it bought and buried public transportation in conjunction with the auto industry starting 100 years ago. Renewable's impediment is just the latest byproduct with Rex Tillerson now Sec. of State...  they have achieved the pinnacle of control but its too late...  fossil fuels are gonna run out, matter of time so all you haters may as well start sucking those wind turbines that supposedly dont pay for themselves cause its coming, like it or not. UPS just announced today the building of a fleet of electric trucks that they are building themselves, I'm sure they just feel like blowing a couple million for no reason.

In reply to by An Shrubbery

Big Daddy lakabarra Fri, 02/23/2018 - 12:22 Permalink

Russian gas imports are solely responsible for Syria and a number of other "wars" so not sure how that plays to your theory. Germany is in a bind since theyre an American ally but need Russian fuels to keep the EU floating and till their renewable networks are complete. Molten salt storage will eventually supply storage enough but transition takes time. Significant % of their gas imports are for exportation to the rest of europe so claiming they havnt reduced fossil fuels consumption is sorta bogus. Germany's reduction has largely come with individual household power generation which is not adequate for transportation but it will be soon as panels get cheaper yet and more productive along with battery tech improvements. Wonder what the US war machine will come up with next to keep blowing up the third world for profit

In reply to by lakabarra

Masher1 Fri, 02/23/2018 - 05:25 Permalink

Here is what i see.. Renewable s are driving the percentage of nuclear down.. And in any country this is a DAMN good thing AT ANY COST.... You will see Too, Eventually. 


The ENTIRE Northern Hemisphere is at risk from a fire at Fukushima's Common Spent Fuel Storage Unit... once that party gets started you just listen to the shit storm that event will have in store, Warning, You are in danger.



Masher1 Masher1 Fri, 02/23/2018 - 15:57 Permalink

Well, first there is the whole process of washing ever increasing amounts into the Pacific.... That one is realy moving to new territory of Wholee Fuk.... Then we have the coverup business, Booming all the way to the big show... Salt it with a vigorus coating of The Best B.S. money can buy... and i can see where you can think like you do.


Back here i reality, We can see a time bomb aerosol event ready to heap 700%-800% More of the fun, We see nobody acting to prevent this.... That show being in Japan where the wind blows onto North America constantly...We see the fattest B.S. peddlers working the entire NORTHCOM stage... But you beleve your groupthink, It's DOUBELPLUS GOODTHINK....Must Be True....


The so called accidents are far from being accidents... You can look away or you can think about the reality facing you.... But Down votes are fun right?


In reply to by Masher1

lakecity55 Fri, 02/23/2018 - 06:05 Permalink

"A large part of Frankfurt lost power today when a deliveryman tripped and broke a key solar panel.
"The damn things are everywhere," said Hans Deustch, the delivery driver. Officials say they are looking into the problem."

stilletto2 Fri, 02/23/2018 - 06:31 Permalink

Not sure how much can be believed in this green trumpeting report. Bullshit like

it was recently reported that on January 1, 2017, Germany met, for the first time, 100 percent of its consumption needs through renewable sources of energy, with wind providing approximately 85 percent of national demand. 

Is wrong and misleading. This couldnt have happened. How can renewables meet 100% of energy consumption when over 50% of energy consumption isnt via electricity. Are all German cars running on windpower? Electricity is only about 50% of energy consumption (cant run a blast furnace on electricity! How many cookers run on gas?). Its very doubtful renewables even made 100% of electricity needs, let alone energy needs.

Same bullshit fudging goes on in UK energy reporting. In the UK offshore wind receives £161.71 per mwh (inc subsidies), but gas and coal generated electricity receives £45.80 per mwh (market price). What a great deal for consumers and taxpayers to be forced to pay nearly 4 times the market price for political goaled renewables! Let the market decide the price of energy and all the greenie renewables will rust away. What a lot of socialist shit.

Dratpmurt Fri, 02/23/2018 - 06:51 Permalink

Not according to the idiots that want big dead oil to push forward but in reality Germany plans are working fabulously. What billionaire is behind your propaganda?

miberxx Fri, 02/23/2018 - 07:31 Permalink

The article didn't mention that 1 KWH in the Socialist Peoples Republic of Germany is 3 times the price tag in the US. As a matter of fact, lower income people in Germany start to not being able to afford electricity.

ClassicalLib17 Fri, 02/23/2018 - 07:41 Permalink

"Whenever the grid threatens to fly out of control, Tennet grid operators need to move fast and intervene. Years ago before the wind and solar energy were fed in to the grid in significant volumes, operators intervened to avert a black out maybe “up to five times per year“.  But today “we are up to 1000 – 1500 interventions per year,” says Volker Weinreich, Director of the Hanover grid control center."

shovelhead Fri, 02/23/2018 - 07:55 Permalink

Germany should become a gas distribution hub and buy all of Russia's export it can. Russian gas is considerably cheaper and energy dense than any form of power. Healthy trade makes for good neighbors and Russia can benefit as well from German exports. When Nordstream II comes on line, this is more likely to happen. Profitable reciprocity is a powerful incentive for constructive relationships. 

 It seems the only one whose annoyed with this is Sheriff Uncle Sam and his plans to keep Russia on the back foot.

Big Daddy Iconoclast421 Fri, 02/23/2018 - 12:31 Permalink

Ignorance and apathy...  people dont see it as a priority despite living paycheck to paycheck or dying because they cant afford healthcare. Its some kind of consumer mindset disease, should be in the dsm V as a legit psych disorder. All the fossil fuels denial of climate change is part of it too but amazing how people are willing to spend their money on unnecessary bullshit without regard to their standard of living. Our culture is fucked in the temple

In reply to by Iconoclast421

Easyp Fri, 02/23/2018 - 09:29 Permalink

I a woman with a PhD in Physical Chemistry closes down Germany's Nuclear Power Plants to keep the fucking Green Party happy and as a result the country burns coal to generate electricity and becomes a major emitter of CO2!!!

autofixer Fri, 02/23/2018 - 09:53 Permalink

I suppose the Soviet plan to infiltrate the Anti-Nuke movement back in the 70's was successful after all?   We in the West are retarded.  

Posa Fri, 02/23/2018 - 10:35 Permalink

German renewable energy is failing more and more... vast amounts of energy generated when not needed... frequent output close to zero when very needed (cold winter nights); an increasingly unstable grid; electric rates almost 3x US rates .... and yes, overreliance on imported natural gas

"Worse, the more wind and solar systems get installed, the more intermitently the conventional systems end up running, thus making them far less efficient and costlier. Result: Germany’s entire energy production system is rapidly becoming sub-par. That’s bad for the environment, the consumer’s pocket book, and for the country’s global competitiveness."…

Miner Fri, 02/23/2018 - 11:50 Permalink

If environmentalists cared about the environment at all they'd advocate for more Nuclear Power, not less.  Coal kills orders of magnitude more people per KW/h than Nuclear.  Yes, including Chernobyl and Fukushima.

snblitz Fri, 02/23/2018 - 12:53 Permalink

I have been running most of my farm and/or household on solar since 1998 and built and maintain the system entirely myself.

What strikes me as odd, at least in the United States, is that the people who "go solar" pay about $35,000 for a $7,500 setup on their homes.  Can someone explain why this is?  Does this paying too much occur everywhere?

I have helped a number of people install systems and to me it seems like they all want to be ripped off.  It is actually very hard to convince them to pay 75% less for the same setup.