In 2020, energy consumption in Germany fell 8.0 % compared with the previous year and reached a total volume of 11,784 PJ or 402.1 Mtce (Figure 1). As mentioned by the Working Group on Energy Balances (AG Energiebilanzen) in its annual report, the slightly milder weather compared with the previous year had only a minor impact (-0.6 %) on the considerable decline in consumption. This fall in energy consumption to an historic low was mainly due to the consequences of the measures taken to fight the pandemic, which resulted in a reduction in industrial production and transport services and changes in consumer behaviour. According to the report issued by the AG Energiebilanzen, another factor influencing the consumption of individual energy sources is the changing energy and climate policy context. At a national level, the gradual phase-out of nuclear energy, the ongoing fossil-fuel phase-out and the continued support of renewable energies are fuelling changes in consumption. At European level, the emissions caps of the European Union Emissions Trading System (EU-ETS) and the overarching climate protection goals are impacting the level and composition of energy consumption in Germany. Price trends, on the other hand, did not provide any stimulus for the economical use of energy in Germany in 2020. However, there were further efficiency gains and improvements in energy productivity. Unlike in previous years, the virtually stagnant population development did not cause an increase in consumption.
As a result of the decline in consumption and other shifts in the energy mix (Figure 2) in favour of renewable energies and natural gas, the AG Energiebilanzen estimates a reduction in energy-related CO2 emissions in the order of approximately 63 M t. This is a decline of 9.6 % compared to the previous year.
According to calculations by the AG Energiebilanzen, overall economic energy productivity improved by 3.2 % in 2020 (2.7 % when temperature-adjusted). This parameter for the efficient use of energy is calculated from the energy input per unit of economic performance. The long-term average value of this parameter is 2.3 %.
There was a decline in the use of mineral oil in 2020 of 11.9 % to 3,973 PJ or 135.6 Mtce. With the exception of light heating oil and petroleum, sales of all mineral oil products fell. The consumption of diesel fell by more than 7 %, while petrol consumption declined by almost 10 %. The consumption of aviation fuel meanwhile fell by over 50 %. The growth of approximately 3 % in light heating oil is likely to be mainly due to consumers stocking up because of the low prices rather than an actual increase in consumption.
The consumption of natural gas dropped by 2.4 % in 2020 to 3,136 PJ or 107.0 Mtce. The main reason for the decrease in consumption is the drop in demand for natural gas from the industrial sectors (-4 %), as well as trade, commerce and services (-5 %), as a result of the coronavirus pandemic. Whereas more natural gas was used for generating power and heat. In private households, consumption increased by 2.5 % despite comparatively milder temperatures.
In 2020, the use of coal was 16.6 % below the previous year’s value and peaked at 904 PJ or 30.8 Mtce. In terms of coal usage for generating power and heat at power stations, the drop was more than 26 %. This development can primarily be attributed to the reduction in power consumption, significantly higher amount of electricity supplied by wind power and photovoltaic (PV) systems, as well as greater use of natural gas for power generation.
There was a decline in the use of lignite in 2020 of 17.8 % to approximately 956 PJ or 32.6 Mtce. There are different reasons for this development: Additional power plant units were put on standby and due to the weather conditions the power supply from wind and PV systems increased. There were also unplanned power station outages, impacts of the coronavirus pandemic on power consumption, as well as shifts in the competitive situation on the national and European power market due to low natural gas prices.
Due to the planned shutdown of the Philippsburg power station at the end of 2019, nuclear energy saw a 14.2 % decrease in electricity production in 2020.
The contribution made by renewable energies to overall energy consumption rose by 3 % overall to 1,961 PJ or 66.9 Mtce in 2020. The hydropower plants (without pump storage) supplied 6 % less power than in the previous year. In contrast, the contribution made by wind power increased 4 %. Solar energy rose by 8 %. There was an increase in the use of biomass of 2 %.
Renewable energies were able to expand their share of the energy mix once again in 2020. Biomass, solar energy, wind energy, hydropower, geothermal energy and the biogenic share of waste accounted for a total of 16.6 % of the entire domestic energy consumption. The most important energy source was once again mineral oil, with a share of 33.7 %, followed by natural gas with 26.6 %. Coal accounted for a share of 7.7 % and lignite for 8.1 %. The contribution of nuclear energy accounted for 6.0 %.
Domestic energy production recorded a decline of about 5 % to 3,425 PJ (116.9 Mtce) in 2020. Lignite production recorded the sharpest decline at almost 18 %. Domestic natural gas production fell by a similar level (-15.5 %). In contrast, the renewable energies allocated to domestic energy sources recorded an increase of around 3 %. Overall, energy production from domestic resources was able to cover just over 29 % of total consumption.
Today, the most important domestic energy source is renewable energy with a proportion of 57.7 % (previous year: 53.2 %). This is followed by lignite at almost 29 % (previous year: 32.9 %). The shares of other energy sources are in the low single-digit range. Hard coal has not been produced in Germany since the end of 2018.
The detailed report on the development of primary energy consumption in 2020 is available to download from the AG Energiebilanzen website (www.ag-energiebilanzen.de). (AG Energiebilanzen/Si.)