German greenhouse gas emissions fell more than expected last year as a rising European CO2 price pushed more fossil power plants out of the market and helped a surge in renewable energy output, the Agora Energiewende think tank said.

Following a reduction of more than 50 million tonnes in 2019, Europe’s largest economy has cut emission by about 35% from 1990 levels, bringing its 2020 climate target much closer to the country’s climate target of a 40%-reduction of emissions than had been thought possible.

The government of Chancellor Angela Merkel last year had already acknowledged that it may not reach the 40% reduction target, and face EU fines.

While achieving the climate target has been an uphill struggle, the country in 2017 ahead of time had already reached its 2020 renewable power target of 35%.

Renewable energies last year met 42.6% of the country’s power needs, almost five percentage points more than in 2018, as wind, solar, biogas and hydro power plants for the first time produces more electricity than coal and nuclear combined.

The main reason for a strong reduction in fossil power output was a rise in the price of CO2 certificates in the EU’s emission trading system (ETS), Agora said.

Germany currently is also planning legislation to create a CO2 price in heating and transport.

But the think tank warned that the rise in renewable power output in 2019 was predominantly due to strong additions of PV installations and good winds, while the outlook for coming years is bleaker.

“The build-up of wind energy in the past two years has fallen by more than 80% and has almost come to a standstill,” Agora chief Patrick Graichen said

“As tenders for new wind power plants in 2019 have been undersubscribed, we won’t see impressive expansion figures in the next years either. It is up to the federal government to change framework conditions fast now so that wind power can advance again.”

There is a real danger that emissions will rise again from 2020 to 2022, Agora said.

“We must build more renewable energy to compensate for the nuclear exit by 2022 and create sufficient power for electronic cars and heating pumps.”