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Review: Renewable Energy – Wind, Photovoltaics, Consumption

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Review: Renewable Energy – Wind, Photovoltaics, Consumption

Review: Renewable Energy – Wind, Photovoltaics, Consumption


The share of renewable energies in net electricity generation has increased by almost ten percentage points to 60 percent compared to the previous year. At first glance, this corresponds to another record report: Over 13 gigawatts of photovoltaic capacity was added this year – almost twice as much as in the previous record year of 2011 (7.9 GW). The growth was particularly strong for building systems up to 20 kWp. The increase in wind power, however, was hardly worth mentioning.

(Bild: energy-charts.info)

But if you look at who had what share of the actual electricity generation, the picture changes: onshore wind power was able to increase by a good 16 percent, photovoltaics by just under 2 percent. It’s also logical: A large part of the new PV output was only installed during the course of the year, so it couldn’t deliver that much electricity in the current year.

public Net electricity generation (TWh) 2022* 2023** Total change 474.6 421.6 -11.2% of which onshore wind 92.0 107.2 16.5% of which offshore wind 23.5 22.3 -5.2 %

*As of December 19, 2022 **As of: December 21, 2023; Source: energy-charts.info

However, the actual reason for the high share of renewables was the overall decrease in consumption. While it was 482 terawatt hours last year, it was around 40 TWh lower by December 21st. A few more terawatt hours will be added by the end of the year, but the previous year’s figure will certainly be undercut.

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At the same time, the trade balance for electricity turned negative in 2023. While Germany delivered almost 23 terawatt hours of surplus electricity abroad in 2022, in 2023 it imported more electricity than it exported for the first time in years.

Export 2019 2020 2021 2022 2023* net, TWh 35.2 18.5 17.8 26.8 -13.8

* As of December 21st

The trade balance with France, which regularly purchased a lot of electricity from Germany in previous years, is now slightly negative. The most important import countries for Germany were Denmark and Norway.

(Bild: energy-charts.info)

An exciting question when expanding renewable energy is always the residual load – i.e. the share of the load that has to be covered by non-fluctuating producers when wind and sun weaken. This is, so to speak, the Achilles heel of the energy transition: no matter how much wind and solar power is installed, it is of no use in complete darkness and no wind. In fact, the maximum residual load in 2023 fell below 70 gigawatts for the first time in years, probably due to the overall lower load.

Renewables and load 2019 2020 2021 2022 2023* max. residual load (GW) 74.9 72.2 70.7 71.4 66.9 Share of renewable energy generation (%) 44.8 49.5 45.1 49.3 58, 9 Share of renewable energy load (%) 50.1 50.1 44.8 50.2 55.8

* As of December 21st; Source: energy-charts.info

A look at the feed-in from wind and sun reveals surprising things. Offshore wind power temporarily failed completely on both the North Sea and the Baltic Sea – for example on June 25th at 6:45 a.m. This phenomenon was also observed in previous years. On land, however, the wind turbines never delivered less than around 120 megawatts, even in the weakest phases. Wind power at sea is actually considered a relatively reliable source of energy. As far as the average number of full-load hours is concerned, experience shows that this is also true. But as a hedge against dark calms, you obviously shouldn’t rely too much on offshore wind power. Here, the broader geographical distribution of wind turbines on land currently beats the wind at sea, which tends to be more consistent.

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After a chaotic year in 2022, the wild swings on the electricity exchange have somewhat subsided. The average price fell by almost 60 percent to just under 95 euros/MWh (day-ahead auction, volume-weighted). Incidentally, the shutdown of the last nuclear power plants had no noticeable impact on this.

(Bild: energy-charts.info)

Anyone who thinks that at least solar energy is now a sure-fire success will have to swallow some bad news at the end – higher interest rates and erratic subsidy policies slowed PV demand again. Companies like Energieversum and Solarwatt had to cut jobs and the plant manufacturer Eigensonne had to file for bankruptcy. “The year 2023, which started brilliantly, ends in shambles for the solar industry,” comments the online portal energie-experts.org.


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