Check-up for the energy transition

8th monitoring report on the energy transition finds progress has been made on the transformation of the energy system, with challenges remaining in the fields of energy efficiency, buildings, and transport.

Collage of energy related images© BMWi

The energy transition is to make Germany's energy supply more environmentally friendly whilst keeping it secure and affordable. This is why we are moving away from nuclear and fossil fuels towards renewables and better energy efficiency. The energy transition is a true marathon, requiring regular check-ups of progress and of the performance of the energy system.

These check-ups come in the form of the monitoring reports on the energy transition (in German only). The 8th edition, which was approved by the Federal Cabinet on 3 February 2021, maps out the state of the energy transition in 2018 and 2019. The monitoring reports are the most important tool of the Energy for the Future monitoring process, which was established in 2011 to ensure regular reviews of the progress made in the transformation of Germany's energy system. How far have we come with the energy transition? What measures have already been implemented? What are the effects? And are we meeting our targets - or do we need to make adjustments?

The latest edition has 286 pages and demonstrates the progress that has been made, without glossing over the challenges that remain. Overall, the report has found that the energy transition is making significant progress in many areas and is on track. Many targets had been met or even surpassed, said Federal Minister for Economic Affairs and Energy Peter Altmaier at a press conference on the monitoring report (in German only) on 3 February 2021.

Target for share of electricity from renewables surpassed

Renewables are making an increasingly high contribution to Germany's electricity supply. In 2019, they accounted for 42% of electricity consumption, the provisional figure for 2020 is around 46%. This means that the target for 2020, which was a minimum proportion of 35%, was surpassed in 2019. To put this figure into perspective, it is important to remember that the figure for 2000 was just 6.3% and that for 2010 only 17.3%. In other words, within the last nine years, the share of renewables has more than doubled.

The monitoring report also shows that, despite positive economic growth, greenhouse gas emissions fell by 5.4% between 2018 and 2019, and by 35.1% between 1990 and 2019. This is a trend that is estimated to have continued in 2020, a year marked by COVID-19. 'It is highly likely that we have even reached and surpassed the 40% target (compared to 1990)' said Minister Altmaier, going on to clarify that 'COVID-19 has played a part in this, yes, but not the only part. The positive trend started at a significantly earlier time and to our knowledge, we would have come close to reaching the target even if it hadn’t been for COVID-19.' The report also shows that, in line with the falling share of electricity generation from coal, carbon emissions from the energy sector also fell.

Primary energy consumption lower than it's ever been since the early 1970s

In 2019, Germany’s primary energy consumption fell to the lowest level since the beginning of the 1970s. Despite the manifold progress that has been made, the monitoring report finds that reaching the ambitious targets on energy consumption and energy efficiency as quickly as possible continues to be a challenge. Here, the transport sector is Germany’s problem child. In fact, energy consumption in the sector continued to rise in 2019, both compared to the preceding year and to the reference year of 2005.

As for energy security, the report has good news. It shows that Germany’s energy supply continues to be secure, despite the phase-outs of nuclear energy and coal. The demand for energy can always be met and the level of energy security continues to be high, even at international level.

In the press conference on the monitoring report, Federal Minister Altmaier also highlighted the importance of the energy transition as a strategy for modernisation. He pointed out that it is generating a great deal of investment in Germany, thereby boosting the country’s post-COVID economic recovery.

Energy experts comment on monitoring report

Parallel to the publication of the monitoring report, comments by the independent expert commission (in German only), a body that analyses the monitoring process from a scientific point of view, were also published. The four experts found deficits particularly in the field of energy efficiency and in the transport and heating sectors, where renewables are still not being used to a sufficient degree. By contrast, they took a positive stance on the share of renewables in Germany’s gross final energy consumption and in the power sector. In their comments, the experts also made some suggestions to the Federal Government. These relate to the ambitious expansion of renewables, the expansion of high-performance transmission and distribution grids, and the establishment of hydrogen infrastructure together with other EU member states.

Progress report and data on the energy transition

Every three years, the energy transition also has another and very thorough check-up in the form of the progress report, which comes in addition to the monitoring report. In contrast to the monitoring report, which is mainly a compilation of the annual data on the energy transition, the progress report draws on a multi-annual database and uses this for analyses that mainly focus on the future course of the energy transition. It contains estimates as to the extent to which the objectives and targets of the energy transition can be reached and highlights the additional measures needed for this to happen. On 6 June 2019, the Federal Government published the 2nd progress report (and the 7th monitoring report, in German only) .

Both reports largely depend on the official energy statistics for data. Further data and statistics are supplied by the Working Group on Energy Balances, the Bundesnetzagentur, the Federal Environment Agency, the Federal Motor Transport Authority, and the German Institute for Economic Research. The data can be accessed on the website of the Federal Ministry for Economic Affairs and Energy (in German only).