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Working Group on Energy Balances publishes report for 2021

In 2021, energy consumption in Germany reached 12,265 PJ or 418.5 Mtce (Figure 1). This is a rise of 3.1 % compared to the previous year. However, the Working Group on Energy Balances (AG Energiebilanzen), Berlin/Germany, states in its recently published annual report that energy consumption is still noticeably lower than pre-Covid levels, which indicates that energy and overall economic development in Germany is still heavily affected by the Covid-19 pandemic and its consequences.

Fig. 1. Structure of the primary energy consumption in Germany in 2021 – a total of 12,265 PJ or 418.5 Mtce, shares in percent (previous year’s period in brackets). Source: AG Energiebilanzen

The increase in primary energy consumption (PEC) was seriously impacted by significantly cooler outdoor temperatures compared with 2020. Between January and May and then October and December in particular, i. e. the heating season, it was significantly cooler than the previous year. When adjusted to take account of the weather, the AG Energiebilanzen calculates that energy consumption in 2021 would only have risen by 0.6 %.

Factors in favour of increased consumption in 2021 included the economic recovery. Overall economic performance increased by 2.7 %. During the last quarter of the year, however, almost no more impacts based on economic development could be observed on energy consumption since supply bottlenecks, a declining construction trajectory and the running out of catch-up effects led to a weakening in the economic recovery.

According to the estimation of the AG Energiebilanzen, the energy markets’ price trend over the past year led to a significant drop in consumption. The import prices of crude oil, natural gas and hard coal rose per annum on average by 67 % to 139 %. The price of CO2 emission certificates more than doubled compared with the previous year and reached historic levels towards the end of the year. The higher energy and CO2 prices have noticeably curbed the growth-based increase in PEC.

According to the report another factor influencing the development of consumption of the individual energy sources is the energy and climate policy context. At a national level, the gradual phase-out of nuclear energy by the end of 2022, 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 also the overarching climate protection goals are impacting the level and composition of energy consumption in Germany.

According to calculations by the AG Energiebilanzen, overall economic energy productivity decreased by 0.4 % in 2021. When adjusted to take account of the temperature and inventory effects, however, there was a slight increase of 0.3 % compared to the previous year. The increase is, however, well below the yearly average of 2.2 % for the period between 1990 and 2021. The overall economic energy productivity is an important parameter for the efficient use of energy and is calculated from the energy input per unit of economic performance.

Based on provisional energy balance data, the AG Energiebilanzen assumes that the energy-related CO2 emissions in the past year have increased by approximately 2.8 %. This would equate to a rise of 17  to 18 Mt. The majority of the increase should be due to electricity and heat production. But there were also higher emissions in the traffic and also industry and trade consumption sectors. Conversely, based on preliminary figures from the energy balance, CO2 emissions from private homes and the commerce, trade and services (GHD) sector have reduced. This method of calculation, however, takes account of sales rather than the actual consumption influenced by changes in warehouse and stock. Including the changes in warehouse and stock, the energy-related CO2 emissions in Germany in 2021 have increased by a little more than 5 % or approximately 31 Mt.

In 2021, mineral oil consumption decreased by a total of 3.1 % to 3,961 PJ (135.1 Mtce). The share of mineral oil in the total PEC decreased to 32.3 % (previous year: 34.4 %). The consumption of petrol rose slightly by 0.4 %, while diesel consumption declined by 1.7 %. Sales of light heating oil dropped by more than 30 %, since many consumers used up their stock after prices rose. In contrast, sales of aviation fuel rose sharply by almost 25 % and supplies of petroleum to the chemicals industry increased by 11.2 %.

The consumption of natural gas in 2021 increased by 4.9 % to 3,288 PJ (112.2 Mtce). The consumption of natural gas was therefore as high as it was in 2005/2006. The demand from the industry grew considerably, particularly in the second and third quarter as the economy started to recover. Consumption in the commerce, trade and services sector also increased. In private homes, due to the cool weather in the first half of the year, there was a strong increase in consumption. More natural gas was also used for district heating. Use in power plants and heating stations, on the other hand, decreased slightly due to the price increase during the second half of the year. Natural gas increased its share of the total PEC slightly to 26.8 %.

Hard coal consumption in 2021 increased by approximately 16.5 % and peaked at 1,044 PJ (35.6 Mtce). The use of hard coal in power stations, which makes up roughly half of total consumption, increased by almost 24 %. The iron and steel industry increased their demand by more than 12 %. Using hard coal in power stations was supported by the rise in prices of competing energy types as well as the lower rate of wind energy being generated due to the weather. These economic effects led to this energy source profiting from sales to the steel industry. The percentage of hard coal in the total PEC increased from 7.5 to 8.5 %.

Lignite consumption increased by 17.7 % to 1128 PJ (38.5 Mtce), yet remained about 3 % below comparative values from 2019 and is thus still following the long-term trend. Last year’s growth is mainly due to the fact that the high level of energy supplied from wind turbines in the previous year due to the weather conditions was much lower in 2021 and due to the different competitive situation on the energy market. In 2021, the percentage of lignite was 9.2 % (previous year: 8.1 %) of the total PEC.

Nuclear energy recorded an increase in electricity production in the reporting period by 7.4 %. The contribution of nuclear energy to PEC rose to 754 PJ (25.7 Mtce). Using the full capacity of nuclear power stations was supported in Germany by greater demand for electricity, less electricity being generated by renewables and the rise in the prices of energy and CO2. As part of the push to stop using nuclear energy, the power plant units Grohnde, Brokdorf and Gundremmingen C were shut down at the end of 2021 with a combined energy generation performance of 4,000 MW. In 2021, nuclear energy accounted for 6.1 % (previous year: 5.9 %) of the total PEC.

The contribution made by renewable energy sources to the PEC dropped in 2021 by 1.2 % to 1,947 PJ (66.4 Mtce). The proportion of renewables of the total PEC reached 15.9 % in 2021 (previous year: 16.6 %). Key influencing factors included calm and cooler weather conditions, which led to lower wind power generation and higher consumption of biogenic fuels for heating purposes. Biomass, which makes up more than 50 % of renewable energy, recorded an increase in consumption of 3 %. Hydroelectric power plants increased by 4 %. In contrast, on-shore wind power decreased by 15 % and off-shore wind power decreased by 11 %. Energy generation from photovoltaic systems rose by 1 %.

In 2021, again more energy was supplied abroad than was imported into Germany. Overall, the electricity exchange balance of 19 bn kWh remained almost exactly the same. The main reasons for this development are a drop in the amount of power generated by renewable energy sources and higher CO2 prices.

There were slight changes in the energy mix for the year 2021. The most important energy source was once again mineral oil, with a share of 32.3 (previous year: 34.4) %, followed by natural gas with 26.8 (previous year: 26.4) %. Coal accounted for a share of 8.5 (previous year: 7.5) % and lignite for 9.2 (previous year: 8.1) %. The contribution of nuclear energy accounted for 6.1 (previous year: 5.9) %. Renewable energies lost out and reduced their share of the total energy consumption to 15.9 (previous year: 16.6) %.

Fig. 2. Structure of domestic energy production in 2021: total: 3,552 PJ or 121.1 Mtce, shares in percent (previous year in brackets). Source: AG Energiebilanzen

Domestic energy production (Figure 2) recorded a 4.9 % growth to 3,552 PJ (121.1 Mtce) in 2021. The production of lignite climbed the most by almost 18 %. Domestic natural gas production increased slightly to 164 PJ (5.6 Mtce). In contrast, the renewable energies allocated to domestic energy sources recorded a decrease by 4 % to 1,945 PJ (66.3 Mtce). Overall, energy production from domestic resources covered 29 % of total consumption. In the previous year, the share was 28.5 %. Today, the most important domestic energy source is renewable energy with a proportion of 54.7 (previous year: 57.6) %. This is followed by lignite at 32.4 (previous year: 28.9) %. 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.
(AG Energiebilanzen/Si.)