Germany this year will cover almost half of its power needs with renewable energy, in part as the Covid-19 pandemic has pushed down electricity demand, preliminary figures show.

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Little more than 46% of the gross electricity demand in Europe’s largest economy in 2020 was likely met by renewables, according to data from the solar and hydrogen research centre Baden-Württemberg (ZSW) and the German federation of energy and water industries (BDEW).

That is 4 percentage points more than in 2019, and 8 percentage points higher than in 2018.

A lower energy consumption alone has contributed to the comparatively larger share of green energy this year. But also without the corona effect, the share of renewables as part of the gross power consumption would have risen – although only to 44%.

The highest increase came from wind at sea, which jumped 11%, and solar, which rose 12%. Onshore wind's share also went up, by 4%.

“The share of renewable energies has increased also this year,” BDEW chairwoman Kerstin Andreae said.

“But the lower power consumption hides the fact that the expansion of renewables is not progressing fast enough,” she cautioned.

“Power demand is expected to increase significantly by 2030. But if the extension continues with the handbrake on, we will not be able to achieve the targets we have set.”

Faulty EEG reform

In order to give the expansion of renewables momentum again, Germany’s government must now adopt a more ambitious amendment to the country’s Renewable Energies Act (EEG) that is currently being discussed in parliament, and implement urgently needed measures to speed up the expansion of renewables, Andreae said.

The governing Christian Democrats (CDU/CSU) of Chancellor Angela Merkel and their coalition partner, the Social Democrats (SPD), yesterday had reached a compromise on the EEG amendment. The reformed legislation needs to be approved before year-end by the Bundestag in order to be in force next year when large volumes of renewable energy capacity will lose their subsidies under the legislation after 20 years.

But while the compromise on the EEG sees some improvements such as a waiver on the payment of a supplement to finance the renewables build-up (EEG levy) also for medium-sizes rooftop solar, the amended law is creating new hurdles for renewables, industry groups have warned.

Both the BDEW and the renewables federation BEE have demanded clearer rules for repowering and a perspective for wind farms that lose support to continue operating.

Onshore wind rules

According to the ZSW/BDEW data, the highest share of renewable power measured in gross generation in Germany continued to come from onshore wind, with 18.7% of all electricity, followed by solar PV with 8.9%, and biomass with 7.8%.

Offshore wind provided another 4.9%, hydro 3.3%, and waste 1%. A tiny contribution came from geo-thermal, with 0.03%. As part of the power produced in Germany is exported, the percentage figures for generation are somewhat lower than those for power demand.