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Energy consumption only slightly affected by the coronavirus pandemic

In the first three months of this year, energy consumption in Germany was almost 7 % below the comparable value from the previous year (Figure 1).

Fig. 1. Development of primary energy consumption in Germany in the first quarter of 2020 – changes in per cent. Source: AGEB

According to preliminary calculations from the Working Group on Energy Balances (AG Energiebilanzen), consumption in the first quarter fell by 6.8 % to 3,457 PJ or 117.9 Mtce. The lower energy consumption due to the economic situation, especially in the energy-intensive industries, the warmer weather conditions in the first two months of the year, and the initial effects of the coronavirus pandemic were responsible for the decrease in consumption. This year’s leap day, by contrast, boosted consumption. With the exception of renewables, all energy sources were affected by the decline in consumption, with coal recording an especially drastic decrease. As the AG Energiebilanzen also calculated, energy consumption would only have decreased by 6.4 % without the impact of the mild weather. The AG Energiebilanzen is also expecting a decrease in energy-related CO2 emissions of almost 11 %.

The consumption of mineral oil fell by 3.2 %. While petrol experienced only a slight drop in sales compared to the previous year, the decrease for diesel fuel was 3.4 %. Sales of heating oil were 5.7 % higher than the same period of the previous year. This growth may have been caused by consumers stocking up due to the sharp drop in prices. Petroleum experienced a 10.5 % decline due to the economic situation.

Natural gas consumption reduced by 5.5 % in total due to the mild weather in the first two months of the year and the slightly reduced use of natural gas in electricity production.

The consumption of coal fell by around 22 % in the first quarter of 2020. The use of coal in power stations recorded a decline of a good third. This development is primarily due to the significantly increased supply of electricity from wind turbines and photovoltaic installations. The use of coke and coal in the steel industry declined by almost 7 %.

In the first three months of 2020, the consumption of lignite fell by more than 30 %. This significant drop has three main causes: The dramatically increased electricity production from renewable energy, the transfer of further lignite power plant blocks to standby mode for emergency reserve power, and the initial effects of the coronavirus pandemic on electricity consumption.

Due to the planned shutdown of the Philippsburg power station at the end of 2019, nuclear energy saw an almost 17 % decrease in electricity production.

By contrast, renewable energies’ contribution to overall energy consumption in the first quarter of 2020 rose by 6 % overall. Wind power recorded an extraordinary increase of 22 % and solar energy grew by 10 %. Biomass saw a decrease of 1 %. Hydroelectric power stations supplied 3 % less electricity.

The electricity exchange balance saw a reduction in electricity flows abroad and an increase in imports, causing a drop in the negative exchange balance, which had significantly increased over recent years. (AGEB/Si.)