Germany’s record 14.4 GW of new solar PV capacity installed in 2023 alone helped surging wind to push renewables’ share above 50% for the first time, analysts AgoraEnergiewende reveal today.
Reinforcing the price-cutting truth of accelerated renewables deployment, the think tank reports canny Teuton customers cashing in. Those who switched suppliers collected cuts in the nation’s Putin-pushed, generally high tariffs.
Although the sun shone less in Germany in 2023, solar farms and roofs produced 61 TWh, one TWh up on the previous year.
That strong expansion in solar PV capacity keeps Germany up to pace for targeted carbon emissions by 2030, the pro-green consultancy report.
Wind, beating gas for the first time as Germany’s single biggest power source, also set new records in Europe’s biggest national power market, around a third bigger than Britain’s. Consistent breezes spun German turbines, overwhelmingly land-based, to produce 138 TWh, beating 132 TWh from the nation’s coal-fired plants.
With only 2.9 GW of new turbines added, though, Agora’s analysts complain wind expansion last year ran at half what Germany needs. 2024 promises better, they believe, adding that a current 7.7GW pipeline of unbuilt but permitted wind farms are the minimum the country needs.
Germany also benefitted from strong renewables and nuclear generation across Europe’s integrated grids. It imported 69 TWh of largely low carbon power, half of it from neighbours’ wind and hydro plants, plus 24 percent from French, Polish and Belgian nuclear stations. At the same time it sold 58 TWh of home-produced electricity abroad.
Across the EU, Agora calculates that renewable energy production increased by 5 percent last year.
Total carbon emissions from German energy industries, including refineries and district heating on top of power generation, amounted to 210 million tonnes of CO₂, a drop of 18 percent on 2022’s planet heating.
German generators’ shunning of Russian gas underpins the nation’s extraordinary 3.9% drop in electricity consumption last year. Mothballing of coal-fired plants cut 15 m tonnes of emissions. Easing back output from lignite facilities added 29 million more.
Astonishingly, some power and gas tariffs also fell, the consultancy reports, particularly for firms and households who switched suppliers.
“Prices for existing customers remained high, as electricity providers generally delay passing the fall in prices on the electricity exchange to customers“, the report notes. “Natural gas prices also fell in 2023 but remained above pre-crisis levels“.
“The price of electricity is more strongly affected by levies and surcharges than the prices of fossil fuels such as oil and gas. This is slowing the switch by households to climate-friendly technologies such as electric cars or heat pumps,” Agoraenergiewende director Simon Müller cautioned.
Despite German renewables’ record-breaking, Müller says gaps remain in national energy policy.
“2023 was a two-speed year,” he said. “The energy sector notched up a climate policy success with its record level of new renewable power, taking us closer to the 2030 target,”
“But we don’t consider the emissions reductions from industry to be sustainable. The drop in production due to the energy crisis weakens Germany’s industrial base. If emissions are simply shifted abroad as a result, this won’t benefit the climate. The buildings and transport sectors are also lagging as far as structural climate protection measures are concerned.”
Read AgoraEnergiewende’s summary and further analysis in English here.