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Energy consumption fell significantly in 2023

Energy consumption in Germany has fallen to a historic low in 2023. The Working Group on Energy Balances (AG Energiebilanzen), Berlin/Germany, expects a decrease of 7.9 % to 10,791 PJ or 368.2 Mtce (Figure 1). This means that the consumption of primary energy in Germany is more than a quarter below the previous peak in 1990, according to the AG Energiebilanzen.

Fig. 1. Development of primary energy consumption in 2023 (changes in percent): Total 10,791 PJ or 368.2 Mtce. Source: AG Energiebilanzen

The decline in economic output in Germany had the greatest influence on the fall in energy consumption. The energy-intensive industrial sectors in particular recorded declines in production, which had a noticeable impact on energy consumption. According to calculations by AG Energiebilanzen, the slightly warmer weather over the course of the year compared to the previous year only had a weak effect on reducing consumption. Adjusted for the weather, energy consumption would have fallen by around 7.4 %. The only consumption-increasing effect in 2023 came from demographic developments. Due to the influx of 1.35 million people, the total population grew to just under 85.5 million people.

The consumption of mineral oil fell by 5.5 % to 3,879 PJ (132.4 Mtce) in 2023 compared to the previous year. While the consumption of petrol increased by 2.3 %, the consumption of diesel fuel fell by a good 4 %. The consumption of aviation fuel rose by 3.9 %. In contrast, sales of light heating oil fell slightly by 2.3 %. Deliveries of crude petrol to the chemical industry fell by 16.7 %.

Natural gas consumption fell by 4.3 % to 2,641 PJ (90.1 Mtce) in 2023. The decline in demand affected industry as well as private households and the trade, commerce and services sector. Slightly more natural gas (+ 1 %) was used to generate electricity compared to the previous year. The production of district heating from natural gas fell by 2 %. The weather had only a minor influence on the development of consumption. Rather, the fall in consumption is primarily due to savings made by consumers.

Hard coal consumption fell by 16.9 % to 937 PJ (32.0 Mtce) in the reporting period. Power plants reduced their fuel consumption by a good 30 %. In contrast, the demand for coal and coke in the iron and steel industry only fell relatively slightly by 2.1 %.

At 912 PJ (31.1 Mtce), primary energy consumption of lignite in 2023 was 21.9 % below the previous year’s level. Deliveries of lignite to power plants for general supply fell by 23 %. Electricity generation from lignite was around 25 % down on the previous year. This development was due to the general decline in electricity consumption in Germany, the reduction in additional generation capacity as part of the gradual phase-out of coal, the increase in electricity production from wind turbines and higher electricity imports from neighbouring countries.

Electricity generation from nuclear energy fell by almost 80 % in 2023. The sharp decline is due to the shutdown of the last three nuclear power plants and their final decommissioning on 15th April 2023. Since this date, nuclear energy has no longer contributed to the energy supply in Germany.

In 2023, 9.2 bn kWh more electricity was imported from abroad than exported. This made Germany a net importer of electricity again for the first time since 2002. Exports fell by 24 % in 2023 compared to the previous year, while imports rose by 38 %.

The contribution of renewable energies increased by a total of 2.3 % to 2,118 PJ (72.3 Mtce) in 2023. Electricity generation from renewable energies grew by around 5 %. The main reason for this development was the significantly higher electricity production from onshore wind energy plants (+ 15 %), particularly in the second half of the year. In the case of solar energy, there was only a slight increase in electricity production (+ 1 %) despite a strong increase in the number of PV systems. Electricity generation from hydropower increased by 11 %. Biomass, which accounts for more than half of the total PEV of renewable energies, fell 4 % short of the previous year’s figure.

The energy mix of the German energy supply continues to be characterised by a broad range of energy sources. However, as a result of energy and climate policy decisions and requirements, there is a constant change in the shares of the individual energy sources. Nuclear power reduced its share to a marginal residual amount in 2023 after the three remaining plants were phased out. Hard coal reduced its share of the energy mix by just under one percentage point and lignite by 1.5 percentage points. By contrast, there were slight increases in the share of mineral oil and natural gas by 0.9 percentage points each. Renewable energies increased their contribution to the energy mix the most, by just under two percentage points.

According to estimates by AG Energiebilanzen, energy-related CO₂ emissions fell by a good 10 % in 2023 as a result of lower overall consumption, particularly in the case of fossil fuels. This corresponds to a reduction in the order of 66 Mt. (AG Energiebilanzen/Si.)