05 Jan 2018, 00:00
Sören Amelang Benjamin Wehrmann Julian Wettengel

Renewables cover German power need for 1st time / Grid stability risk

Clean Energy Wire

Germany has crossed a symbolic milestone in its energy transition by briefly covering around 100 percent of electricity use with renewables for the first time ever on 1 January. At around 06:00 am on 1 January, a combination of strong winds and low demand after New Year's celebrations meant that wind power alone produced about 85 percent of Germany’s power consumption, according to data provided by the Federal Network Agency. Hydropower and biomass installations covered the rest, as there was no solar power generation before sunrise. But the data is preliminary and other estimates suggest renewables’ share was 95 percent rather than 100 percent.

Germany's power production and consumption on 1 January. Source - Federal Network Agency 2018.

For background, read the CLEW factsheet Germany’s renewable generation peaks remain shrouded in data fog.

Please note: The Clean Energy Wire will publish an article on this subject later today.

A large increase of wind power generation pushed Germany’s renewable share of total power use to a record 36.1 percent last year, an increase of 3.8 percentage points over 2016, according to energy think-tank Agora Energiewende*. A rising number of turbines and very windy conditions meant that wind power outstripped hard coal and nuclear for the first time. But the country’s total emissions stagnated for the third year in a row, because more oil and gas were used in transport, heating and industry, according to Agora’s review of 2017 developments.

Find the press release and study in German here.   

*Like the Clean Energy Wire, Agora Energiewende is a project funded by Stiftung Mercator and the European Climate Foundation.

Tagesspiegel / LEAG

Fossil power plants can react much more flexibly to large feed-ins of power from renewables than studies have indicated, writes Jakob Schlandt in an article in Tagesspiegel Background Energie & Klima. The newspaper's calculations showed that the output of conventional power plants reached all-time lows during times of prolonged negative power prices in autumn 2017 and over the Christmas holidays. “When the price drop hurts enough, many plants go off the grid completely,” writes Schlandt. Lignite plants’ output for example dropped below 5 gigawatts (GW), where 7 gigawatts had been usual, he writes. Eastern German lignite power plant operator LEAG said in a press release that it had flexibly ramped up and down its plants according to the volatile feed-in of renewable power over the holidays. “At the moment, our LEAG power plants react highly flexibly to the renewed high wind power feed-in,” said board member Hubertus Altmann.

Read the LEAG press release in German here.

For background, read the CLEW factsheets How can Germany keep the lights on in a renewable energy future?, Germany's electricity grid stable amid energy transition, and Why power prices turn negative.


Germany does not have a power supply security issue, but its grid stability may be at risk in the long run, Jochen Homann, president of the Federal Network Agency (BNetzA) told Deutschlandfunk in an interview. The country currently has sufficient power capacity and consumers do not have to fear power outages, said Homann. However, the grid is oftentimes “not able to transport the power that is sold on the exchange,” forcing grid operators to intervene in the operation of power plants. “Of course, this does not only lead to costs, but is also risky in the long run,” said Homann. Negative power prices, which sometimes result from the lagging grid expansion, “aren’t bad in and of themselves. They point to the fact that there’s not enough flexibility in the power plants on the market,” said Homann.

Read the interview in German here.

For background, read the CLEW factsheets How can Germany keep the lights on in a renewable energy future?, Germany's electricity grid stable amid energy transition,  Set-up and challenges of Germany's power grid, and Why power prices turn negative.

Spiegel Online

Making electricity cheaper and heating and transport fuels more expensive would be a first step towards successful sector coupling in Germany, writes Stefan Schultz in an opinion piece for Spiegel Online. Renewables expansion costs for consumers would be “more bearable,” petrol and diesel cars less attractive, and heating insulation would pay off sooner. The next government should work on this, “rather than endlessly arguing about the coal exit. It would provide the opportunity to design the energy transition in a holistic way,” writes Schultz.

Read the opinion piece in German here.

For background, read the CLEW factsheet Germany ponders how to finance renewables expansion in the future.


Germany’s energy transition needs a “restart” as many companies struggle to cope with the additional financial burden in the form of surcharges, levies and other costs put on every kilowatt hour (kWh) of electricity, Klaus Stratmann writes in an op-ed for the Handelsblatt. Producing one kWh of electricity in a power plant might cost about 3 cents, but the additional financial burden brings the price for household consumers up to around 30 cents, Stratmann says. Most companies do not benefit from so-called industry rebates and are faced with power prices “which their competitors in neighbouring countries like the Czech Republic or France so far have not even encountered in their nightmares,” he argues. “The Energiewende cannot be funded permanently by burdening the power price without any limitation,” Stratmann says, calling for a “system change” initiated by the next government, “which is centred on a price for CO2.”

Read the op-ed in German here (paywall).

For background, read the CLEW factsheets Germany ponders how to finance renewables expansion in the future and Industrial power prices and the Energiewende.

Federal Motor Transport Authority (KBA)

The share of diesel cars in total new passenger car registrations in Germany fell to 38.8 percent in 2017, (from 45.9 percent in 2016), the Federal Motor Transport Authority (KBA) says in a press release. The share of petrol cars increased to 57.7 percent (52.1 percent in 2016), and full electric car registrations more than doubled to 25,056 cars, a share of 0.7 percent. The average CO2 emissions of Germany’s car fleet have increased slightly to 127.9 grams per kilometre (from 127.4 g/km in 2016).

Find the press release and data for download here.

For background, read the CLEW factsheets "Dieselgate"- a timeline of Germany's car emissions fraud scandal and The debate over an end to combustion engines in Germany.

All texts created by the Clean Energy Wire are available under a “Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International Licence (CC BY 4.0)” . They can be copied, shared and made publicly accessible by users so long as they give appropriate credit, provide a link to the license, and indicate if changes were made.
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