For years, Germany has been considered to be the mecca for green energy. Despite its chilly winters, the nation went on a spree to install solar panels on everything from roofs and garden walls to large structures in the countryside. As a result, it was one of the first countries in the world to be powered entirely by renewable energy. Today, Germany generates more electricity from wind power than it does from fossil fuels – and it’s reducing its carbon footprint as a result.
To understand how much wind and solar power there is in Germany, it’s important to look at the whole picture. According to figures from the International Energy Agency, in 2021 Germany used 49.9TB of electricity which was supplied by various renewable energy sources (including 8.2% from hydro power). That’s more than double the 21.1TB used in 2020 and up from 6.3TB in 2019. It also marks a 17% increase from the previous three-year average of 40.1TB per year.
Looking at the whole country, the Federal Republic of Germany uses about 80.8TB per year and generates about 82.4% of its electricity from renewable sources. However, those numbers vary from one region to another. In Bavaria, for example, renewables generated only 17.9% of the total electricity used in 2021 while in North Rhine Westphalia it was 37.4%.
Of the 82.4% of electricity generated in Germany in 2021, 6.3TB was produced by hydro power stations. That’s up from 4.7TB in 2020 and 2.3TB in 2019. However, hydro power isn’t entirely renewable as it’s generated using water from rivers or other bodies of water – which is then contaminated by fossil fuels and other sources of energy.
In 2021, Germany’s largest hydroelectric power station, the Hinkley Point C in England, generated 630GWh of power – enough to supply 600,000 homes. That’s enough to equal the total power generated at the three other English sites combined (Hinkley Point A, B and D).
Hydro power isn’t just limited to large dams however – there are also hundreds of smaller hydroelectric plants across Germany. Some of which, like the Trockne Power Plant, generate only enough power to supply a small community. The UK, on the other hand, only has one functioning hydroelectric plant, which was originally built in 1923 and still generates enough power to supply 600,000 homes. The other six sites have been decommissioned.
A lot of attention was focused on Germany’s green energy boom in the years following the financial crisis of 2008. The nation went on a spending spree installing thousands of wind turbines which provided nearly a quarter of the country’s power needs. Since then, Germany has continued to expand its wind power capacity with the aim of generating at least 80% of the country’s electricity from renewable sources by 2025.
Looking at the whole country, Germany uses 24.5TB of electricity per year generated by wind power plants. That’s up from 22.3TB in 2020 and 20.1TB in 2019. The increased electricity use isn’t surprising as the country’s population grew by 800,000 people between 2020 and 2025.
However, this trend will likely be reversed in 2025 as the economy in Germany is expected to go through a major downturn. In fact, according to the International Energy Agency, in 2025 Germany may even see its carbon footprint increase as a result of more people turning their homes into coal-fired power stations to generate electricity.
On the other hand, California, which is known for its blistering-hot summers and punishingly cold winters, is experiencing something of a revival in terms of renewable energy generation. The state’s sunny climate means it has more of an opportunity to generate power from solar energy than most other places – and in 2025 it plans to become entirely powered by renewable energy.
In 2021, California produced more electricity from renewable sources than in any other previous year – including 15.6% from hydro power, 13.2% from wind power and 9.3% from solar power. Those figures are up from 14.3%, 12.3% and 8.6% in 2020, 19.5%, 15.1% and 8.9% in 2019 and 13.8%, 12.1% and 7.9% in 2018.
As we’ve established, Germany is a major player when it comes to renewable energy – but it isn’t just about electricity generation. The country has a large number of electric vehicles as well. In 2021, there were over 1.2 million electric vehicles registered in Germany – which is almost 90% of the country’s total car registration. That’s up from 780,000 in 2020 and 580,000 in 2019. It’s also nearly 10% more than the previous three year average of 890,000 cars registered per year.
To further illustrate Germany’s increased interest in electric vehicles, look no further than the state of Bavaria. The German government agency, the Federal Environment Agency, forecasts that by 2040 there will be over 1.5 million electric vehicles in Bavaria – which will make it the European base for electric vehicles.
Stable Energy Sources
One of the biggest problems with renewable energy is that, as we’ve established, it can be extremely variable in terms of supply. This can create problems for the countries that rely on it for a significant portion of their energy demands. Germany has been working hard to overcome this issue by increasing the amount of power stations that generate electricity from renewable sources and also by expanding the amount of storage that can be integrated into the grid. As a result, instead of relying on wind or solar power alone to meet their energy needs, Germany is able to tap into a stable energy source – namely nuclear power. The nation currently has 22 operating nuclear reactors with a total power capacity of about 12.8GW. This gives Germany, and other stable energy sources, a significant edge over wind and solar power which can vary significantly with weather conditions. Since electricity generated by nuclear power doesn’t cause as much greenhouse gas as other sources, it’s clear that Germany is putting their money where their mouth is when it comes to fighting climate change.
In 2021, almost 300,000 residential customers in Germany had solar power systems integrated into their homes’ supply – enough to power over 300,000 homes. This is in addition to the 220,000 solar power systems already in place in 2020 and the 120,000 in 2019. These homes are generating their own electricity which allows them to cut their reliance on conventional power sources. With more people looking to reduce their carbon footprint and the cost of solar power falling as a result of increased competition in the space, it’s clear that Germany sees this as the way forward.
With the amount of power generated by renewables rising sharply, Germany now has the ability to reduce its carbon footprint. However, it also plans to increase its energy security – especially in view of Britain’s exit from the European Union. In order to achieve this, the country will continue to increase its capacity to generate electricity from renewables and improve its energy efficiency.