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European strategy for energy. Germany and renewables

09 February 2017

In March 2007, the European Council meeting in Brussels agreed on a number of strategic plans, including an energy plan.

This energy plan is known in the jargon as 20-20-20, since among its objectives for the year 2020 are:

  • The reduction of CO2 emissions by 20% (compared to 1990)
  • That renewables reach 20% of the total consumption of the European Union, and
  • That energy efficiency improves by 20%.
Indicadores generales de la estrategia Europa 2020, UE28
    2008 2013 2014 2015 2020
Cambio Climático y Energía Emisiones de gases efecto invernadero (Índice 1990 = 100) 90,29 80,24 77,05 : 80
Proporción de energía renovable en el consumo de energía final bruto (%) 11,0 15,0 16,0 : 20
Consumo de energía primaria (Millones de toneladas de petróleo equivalente) 1,693.1 1.569,1 1,507.1 : 1.483
Consumo final de energía (Millones de toneladas de equivalente de petróleo) 1,180.0 1.106.2 1,061.2 : 1.086

Elaboración propia con datos tomados de Eurostat.

With regard to the achievement of these objectives, Germany is often mentioned as a model to follow - taking into account the peculiarities of each member country - and country that points the paths to transit in this complex and full of difficulties. Here we are only going to mention some data that we are introducing in this intricate subject:

If we compare three sources of energy - nuclear, coal and renewables - which have fueled the German energy mix (as they obviously can do in other EU countries) and their modifications from 1990 to the present, we have Clear indicators of how the directives of the Teuton country's energy authorities are working towards the 20-20-20 objectives of the European Council.

The role of coal has been modified downwards, although it still plays an important role in the composition of the mix (40% in 2016). Although this source is polluting, "the goal of the Federal Government's national sustainability strategy is to reduce greenhouse gas emissions in Germany by 2020 by at least 40% compared to 1990. According to interim results, Emissions declined by approximately 27.2% between 1990 and 2015 ".

We can see in the graph the inverse proportion of nuclear and renewable sources.

While the contribution of nuclear power decreases from 28% in 1990 to 13% in 2016, the contribution of renewables grows from 4% in 1990 to 29.5% in 2016.

For the year 2016 the overall composition of the German structure or balance of generation (Mix) was as follows: 

If we compare the figures for these three sources (nuclear, coal and renewable) in their contribution to the mix of Germany 2016 and Spain 2015 respectively, we would have the following graph:

The contribution of renewables in Spain in the year 2015 was 36.9% of the total of the national production. Coal 20% and nuclear 22%. [I] See note at the end. Some conclusions that come out of a simple observation are: 

  •  The contribution of the renewables to the Spanish mix is ​​superior to the German one. Eye that we do not speak of installed power, but of contributory percentage to the mix.
  •  Coal is much less contributory in Spain than in Germany.
  •  The German nuclear, in clear descent, contribute much less than the Spanish ones.

Finally, some data on the European objective of improving efficiency:

  • Germany has photovoltaic solar power plants installed that can provide electricity to 5.1 million people (38.6 GW of installed capacity). However, in Spain, this type of renewable technology can only supply an equivalent of 1.4 million people (5 GW). That is, Germany has almost eight times as much installed photovoltaic power as Spain (...) In Europe, countries such as Germany, Italy and Greece, photovoltaic installations cover more than 7% of their electricity demand.
  • Another milestone of German photovoltaics: 41% of new solar installations incorporate storage.
  • Photovoltaic solar plants installed in Germany produced at midday on Friday and last Saturday 22,000 MWh, which exceeded the capacity of generating 20 nuclear power plants at full capacity.
  • "Approximately 240,000 people in Germany were employed in the renewable energy sector in 2006, representing a 40-percent increase over 2004".

Generación de puestos de trabajo en Energías Renovables (Alemania)

(Nº empleos).

  • 2004: 160.500
  • 2009: 339.500
  • 2010: 370.000

We can also see the leading role that Germany occupies in relation to the rest of the European countries in the specific sector of installed photovoltaics:

As for our country, just add a few words from the Director General of the Spanish Photovoltaic Union, Mr. José Donoso: "2016 was the year in which the theme of the fight against climate change, and the role of The renewable ones, has returned to be at the center of the public debate, giving rise to a positive impact in the awareness of the society on this problem".

"By technologies, the production of peninsular electricity during 2015 was generated in 21.8% from nuclear power plants (22.0% in 2014), 20.3% from coal (16.5% in 2014), 19.0% with wind power (20.3% in 2014), 11.0% with hydraulics (15.5% in 2014) and the remaining 27.9% was distributed between combined cycles (10.1%), Cogeneration (10.1%), solar (5.1%) and others (waste and other renewable 2.6%).

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