01 Jun 2021, 12:41
Julian Wettengel

Weak wind power months push up German fossil fuel use in first quarter 2021

Clean Energy Wire

German coal and natural gas use increased in the first three months of 2021, compared to the same period last year, as the country’s wind turbines produced much less power, show data by energy market research group AG Energiebilanzen (AGEB). While oil use declined (-19.4%) due to the pandemic and higher prices for heating oil, Germany used 11 percent more natural gas, 9 percent more hard coal and 26 percent more lignite than in the first quarter 2020 – mostly to make up for the decrease in onshore (-35%) and offshore (-17%) wind power. AGEB said these developments also led to increasing energy-related CO2 emissions, without providing details. Overall, the economic effects of the coronavirus pandemic, high energy and CO2 prices and the lack of a leap day caused German energy consumption to decline 0.8 percent year-on-year in the first quarter of 2021, said AGEB. Without the additional need for heating due to the colder weather, energy use would have declined much more (2.3%).

Unfavourable weather conditions meant that renewable electricity production for Germany’s net public power supply dropped to 57 terawatt hours (TWh) in the first quarter of 2021, compared to 75.8 TWh last year, data by Fraunhofer ISE had shown. Energy think tank Agora Energiewende* wrote in a blog piece that German power plants emitted about 10 million tonnes of CO2 more in the first quarter 2021 than in the same period last year and said this could foreshadow rising emissions in 2021.

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

graph shows year on year change of German energy consumption by source for Q1 2021. Source: AGEB.
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