German electricity mix: record high for renewable energies


In the electricity sector, the energy transition is on the right track, but will not record any new highs in 2021 due to the weather. While the share of renewable energies in the electricity mix rose to a record 55.8 percent in 2020, the share will fall to 45.7 percent in 2021. Wind power is still the most important source of energy.

Electricity mix in Germany – what is that?

The term electricity mix describes the proportionate composition of the electricity generated in Germany according to energy sources. A distinction is made between renewable and conventional energy sources. In recent years, the mix has shifted in favor of renewable energies. The background to the developments in the electricity mix is ​​the energy transition. The goal is to increase the generation of energy from renewable energy sources, to phase out nuclear power by 2022 and to phase out coal by 2038.

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German electricity mix: energy sources for electricity generation

The conventional energy sources for power generation in Germany are hard coal and lignite, nuclear power and natural gas. The remaining share of electricity in Germany is obtained from renewable energy sources. These include wind energy, photovoltaics, biomass and hydropower. In Germany, most of the electrical energy is still generated from coal. The problem with generating electricity from fossil fuels is their limited availability and the climate damage caused by the associated CO2 emissions. Nuclear power plants are still responsible for a large part of the power generation.

Electricity mix 2021: Less share of renewable electricity sources after record high in 2020

The share of renewable electricity sources in the German electricity mix broke the 50 percent mark for the first time in 2020. In the 2021 electricity mix, i.e. the electricity that actually comes out of the socket, the proportion of renewable energies has fallen due to the winter and is now at 45.7 percent even slightly below the 46 percent from 2019. The year was for both wind power and solar energy 2021 a below average year. Nevertheless, renewable energies remain the most important and also the strongest source of electricity.

Lignite follows as the second most important source of electricity and increases from 13.7 to 20.2 percent. For comparison: in 1990 this share was 31.1 percent. Nuclear power has lost much of its importance. Although the share in the electricity mix will increase again slightly to 13.3 percent in 2021, it is still less than half of what it was 25 years ago. In contrast to 2020, power generation from the conventional energy source natural gas recorded a decline of 10.5 percent in 2021.

Electricity mix Germany 2021: again less than 50 percent from renewables

The Fraunhofer Institute for Solar Energy Systems ISE has published electricity generation data for the year 2021 (the following figures are also from the study). Accordingly, at 45.7 percent, no increase in renewable energy could be generated in the electricity mix compared to the previous year. The proportion has fallen by 4.6 percent compared to the previous year, falling below the 50 percent record level again.

The share of hard coal in the electricity mix, which fell so enormously in 2020, rose by 30.8 percent compared to the previous year. The share of lignite also rose by 20.4 percent. In 2020, this share fell by 36.3 percent compared to 2019, so the decline in 2021 was offset by a little more than half. The conventional energy source gas also increased its share in the electricity mix by 13.9 percent.

Electricity mix in Germany: wind power continues to have the largest share in the electricity mix

Basically, at 23 percent, wind power is still the strongest power in the electricity mix in Germany – both in absolute terms and within the renewables. In 2021, wind power fell by 14.5 percent compared to the previous year. A huge drop that is due to the weather taking advantage of less severe winter storms.

In total, solar and wind energy together fed 161 TWh into the public grid. For comparison: In 2020 it was a total of 181 TWh. Solar energy also struggled with less solar radiation in 2021. Nevertheless, more photovoltaic systems were built last year, which almost compensates for the electricity generation and slightly increased the feed-in into the public grid at around 48.4 TWh compared to 47.7 TWh in 2020.

Coal power and nuclear power are on the rise again

With gas prices skyrocketing in 2021, power generation from natural gas has seen a decline. At the same time, the importance of lignite and hard coal increased. Overall, they make up 30 percent of the German electricity mix, despite rising prices for CO2 certificates. This is mainly due to the rising electricity prices, including the exchange electricity price, which has tripled. Only when the electricity price and the price for CO2 certificates are again at the same level will power generation from lignite no longer be economical.

Already knew? According to Fraunhofer ISE, generating one megawatt hour of lignite electricity emits around 1.1 tons of CO2.

Electricity mix 2021: Hydropower still the smallest share

Hydropower produced a total of 18.2 TWh in 2020 and can thus record a slight increase of 1.2 TWh in 2021. With 19.4 TWh and still 4 percent, hydropower continues to have the smallest share in the German electricity mix. Around 43 TWh were produced from biomass – 1 TWh less than in 2020. Unfortunately, the electricity mix in Germany will not be able to record another record value in 2021.

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