Renewables Update

Overview of renewables in Germany in 2014 in Japanese

24 February 2015 Craig Morris, Editor of Renewables International
and lead author of

Last year was a record for both wind power and biogas in Germany – positively for the former and negatively for the latter. The PV market also shrank considerably but remains huge in an international comparison relative to grid size.

First, the good news – Germany installed 4.75 gigawatts of onshore wind power capacity last year, an increase of more than 50 percent from the nearly 3.0 gigawatts installed in the previous year. The level in 2014 is also a new record for the country and lies nearly 50 percent higher than the old one of around 3.2 gigawatts from 2002.

The boom may not be sustainable, however. It is partly a reaction to policy uncertainty going forwards. By 2017, Germany aims to have gotten rid of feed-in tariffs for large systems in favor of reverse auctions, as requested by the European Commission. At present, the government is conducting pilot auctions for ground-mounted photovoltaics, and the wind sector wonders how such auctions can serve as a model for future auctions in the wind sector, which has much different requirements. The result is a rush to build as much as possible right away.

Germany's offshore wind sector also reported significant progress in 2014, with 1,049 megawatts installed at the end of the year (compared to 38,116 onshore). An additional 1,303 megawatts has been constructed and is merely waiting for a grid connection, so that Germany should have close to two gigawatts of offshore wind connected to the grid by the end of this year on the path towards 6.5 gigawatts by 2020. Furthermore, 923 megawatts is also under construction or in the planning phase. Note that onshore and offshore wind are reported separately in Germany because these sectors have much different ownership, with smaller players and citizen-driven energy cooperatives being heavily active onshore but absent offshore.

Taken together, onshore and offshore wind capacity now once again exceeds installed PV, with solar having reached 38.23 gigawatts at the end of 2014. But the German solar market is currently only a quarter of its size from 2010-2012. In those years, around 7.5 GW was installed annually, compared to 1.9 GW last year. Still, the global market has risen from around 30 GW a few years ago to an estimated 50-55 GW this year, so German PV firms that have focused on international markets rather than the domestic market are doing quite well. Furthermore, with peak power demand in the summer rarely rising above 70 GW in Germany, the German power market is a 10th the size of the one in the US, for instance. Adjusted for this difference, Germany just installed more PV last year than the United States has altogether – in a year the German solar sector itself perceives as a collapse.

The biogas sector has fared worst of all. Bioenergy has been the unsung hero of the Energiewende up to now; because it can be used not only to generate electricity, but also in the heat and transport sectors, bioenergy (including waste) makes up nearly 9 percent of German energy supply, compared to less than three percent for solar and wind combined. But in 2014, the new governing coalition decided that biogas units in the power sector are simply too expensive. Around 40 megawatts was installed (down from 600 megawatts a few years ago), most of it before the new law took effect. This year, practically nothing new is expected to be built, but numerous existing projects will be upgraded.

Craig Morris (@PPchef) is the lead author of German Energy Transition. He directs Petite Planète and writes every workday for Renewables International.