More renewables, fewer fossil fuels: energy consumption in 2018 falls

Germany used less primary energy in 2018 than in the preceding year: The decline of 5% can be partially attributed to lower levels of coal consumption.

Big renewables icons, smaller fossil fuels icons© Federal Ministry for Economic Affairs and Energy; based on dated provided by the Working Group on Energy Balances (AGEB)

Last year, Germany’s primary energy consumption fell significantly: the amount of energy that is directly available in energy sources before these are converted into electricity, heat or petrol was around 5% lower in 2018 than in the previous year. The Working Group on Energy Balances (AGEB) estimates that annual consumption has fallen from just under 13,600 petajoules (PJ) to around 12,900. This is the first decline in this figure since 2014. Consumption of hard coal fell in particular, dropping by more than 11%. This was due to a significant reduction in hard coal used at power plants to generate electricity and heat.

As much energy saved as Ireland consumes in total

According to the Working Group on Energy Balances, the fall in primary energy consumption was caused by mild weather conditions, higher energy prices and, improved energy efficiency – all of which have even offset higher levels of energy demand from having a strong economy and a growing population. Even with adjustments for the weather, consumption has still declined by just under 4%. The amount of energy that has been saved is approximately equivalent to primary energy consumption in Ireland.

The lower level of primary energy consumption in Germany was due both to a decline in electricity generation from coal-fired power plants and a continued increase in the use of renewables. Shifting away from using conventional energy sources not only means replacing these with renewables, but also means that the high amount of fossil energy needed to convert fossil fuels into power, e.g. in coal-fired power stations, is also cut out. In contrast, using wind, sun and hydropower has – by definition – an efficiency rate of 100% (to find out more about efficiency rates, please click here).

Petroleum, which is predominantly used in the transport sector, accounts for a third of primary energy consumption, representing the largest share. Natural gas consumption accounts for around a quarter of this figure. In order to achieve our ambitious national and European energy and climate targets, we will need to keep on steadily reducing our primary energy consumption.