04 Jun 2024, 14:19
Benjamin Wehrmann

Drop in coal power leads fall in Germany’s fossil fuel use in early 2024 amid weaker economic output

Clean Energy Wire

Energy consumption in Germany has fallen significantly in the first three months of 2024 compared to the same period one year before, energy industry and research initiative AGEB has found. Despite constant population growth and an extra day in the first quarter due to the leap year, consumption was down 4.6 percent to a total of 3,030 petajoules (PJ). The drop, was in part caused by weaker economic development, warm weather, and high energy prices, also due to CO2 pricing, AGEB said. The strongest fall was seen in coal use: hard coal use fell by over 20 percent and lignite use by more than 17 percent between January and the end of March. Renewable power increased its share in the energy mix by nearly 3 percent, mostly thanks to greater hydropower production, more solar PV and more wind energy. Thanks to this increase, as well as lower demand and greater imports, the use of hard coal in electricity production even fell by more than 40 percent and by more than 18 percent for lignite. According to AGEB, reduced coal use and other fossil sources led to a drop in greenhouse gas emissions of about 6.6 percent (12 million tonnes of CO2-equivalents). This was despite the fact that Germany’s three last remaining nuclear reactors were still in use during the reference period in early 2023. At the same time, the country exported 0.5 billion kilowatt hours (kWh) more electricity in early 2024 than it received in imports. In the first quarter of 2023, the country had a positive trade balance of more than 9.5 billion kWh.

Demand for natural gas increased slightly, by 1.2 percent, which be attributed largely to the additional day in the quarter on 29 February. While more gas had been used to produce electricity, the demand for heating was suppressed by the warm winter. In industry, the use of natural gas was receding in the context of lower economic output. The use of petroleum products fell 2.8 percent and that of diesel fuel even by 9 percent, AGEB said.

An analysis by research institute Fraunhofer ISE for 2023 published earlier this year found that Germany's lignite power production fell to the lowest level since 1963 last year, while hard coal power production even dropped to the lowest level since 1955. Germany’s total emissions dropped by about 10 percent in that year, a decrease that - besides greater output from renewable power sources - has also been attributed to the country's weaker economy.

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