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1 January 2020 – Electricity consumption and electricity generation are each down from the previous year. The average wholesale price of electricity is also lower than in 2019. Overall Germany remains a net exporter of electricity. The developments over the course of the year.
Electricity generation, consumption and trading, as with almost all areas of public life and the economy, were also affected by the restrictions introduced in mid-March by the federal government and the federal state governments to curb the spread of COVID-19. These special conditions and their consequences should be kept in mind when comparing the figures with previous years. A leap year, 2020 also had one more calendar day than 2019.
Electricity consumption and electricity generation
Electricity consumption, ie the grid load, was 474.9 TWh this year, which was 3.2% lower than the previous year. From March to September, monthly electricity consumption fell steadily compared with monthly figures from the previous year. Electricity consumption saw its sharpest decline in the month of May (down 10.6%) due to the measures taken to stem the coronavirus pandemic. Throughout the rest of the year electricity consumption varied but remained lower in almost every other month of the year compared with the previous year. Only in the month of October was consumption higher (1.7%) than in 2019.
Electricity consumed [TWh]
Change from the previous month
Change from the same month of the previous year
Data basis: smard.de
Electricity generation fell from 519.2 TWh to 492.4 TWh, a decrease of 5.2%.
Compared with the previous year, April saw the sharpest decline in electricity generation (down 16.8%).
Generation from conventional sources
Generation from conventional sources fell overall by 12.2% in 2020. The largest decrease in electricity generation was from hard coal, with a decline of 27.1%, followed by lignite and nuclear energy, with an 18.8% decline and a 14.2% decline respectively.
Conventional generation accounted for 52.65% of total generation in 2020. In 2019 it was 56.9%.
One possible reason for the lower electricity generation from conventional sources could be the decrease in electricity consumption during the coronavirus pandemic. There are also other factors in individual plant dispatch planning in the European electricity market, for example fuel costs or CO2 certificate prices, which impact the relative costs of a country’s fossil electricity generation. Not to be overlooked either are the changes in the installed and available capacity, nor the increase in electricity production from renewable sources.
Generation from renewable energy sources
Overall, electricity generation from renewables was 4.1% higher than in 2019. It made up 47.35% of the total generation (2019: 43.1%) and covered around 49.1% of the net electricity consumption (the grid load). In addition to favourable weather conditions, continuing expansion also plays a role.
In a monthly view, February had the highest generation (26,690 GWh) from renewables. The reason for this was the Storm “Sabine”, which caused especially high wind infeed (on and offshore) totalling 20.3 TWh. Wind power feed-in totalled 3.5 TWh in the five-day period from 7 to 11 February alone. In this context, on Tuesday 11 February, electricity generation from renewable energy sources reached its highest level for a single day (1,252 GWh), with wind power accounting for the largest portion (1,033 GWh), followed by biomass (116.6 GWh) and solar (52.3 GWh). The remainder was generated by other renewables.
On the following weekend, Cyclone Victoria also led to high wind power feed-in amounting to 1.9 TWh from Friday 14 to Sunday 16 February. Renewables even supplied 95.5% of the net electricity consumption (the grid load) that Sunday, which was a new three-year high.
Generation from renewables was at its lowest for a single day on Thursday 10 December (240.2 GWh), and the lowest generating month for renewables was September (15,615 GWh).
With many hours of sun and little rain, the sunniest April on record (DWD) resulted in relatively high feed-in from photovoltaic installations. On Sunday 5 April between 11am and 5pm, renewables produced enough electricity to cover Germany’s net electricity consumption (grid load) for six consecutive hours. In this time frame a total of 13.2 GWh more electricity from renewables was generated than consumed. From 19-22 April there was also a high proportion for several days, including on weekdays, when consumption values are typically higher compared to weekends. Over these four days, renewables covered a total of 81,5% of Germany’s electricity consumption.
The grid load share of electricity generated from renewables in 2020 was 49.1% (2019: 45,7%).
Onshore wind generation made the largest contribution (21.7%). Solar covered 9.7% of the grid load, followed by biomass (8.5%). The remaining 9.2% came from offshore wind, hydropower and other renewables.
The wholesale electricity price in Germany
This year’s average wholesale electricity price was €30.47/MWh (2019: €37.67). Throughout the year the price fell nearly every month compared with the previous year’s month. Only in the months of September and December did the price increase, from €35.75/MWh to €43.69/MWh and from €31.97/MWh to €43.52/MWh respectively. The year’s lowest price was reached on Tuesday 21 April between 2pm and 3pm (minus 83.94 euros per megawatt hour), it was also the lowest price since June 2019.
Overall the month of April was also the month with the lowest average wholesale price (€17.09/MWh). One reason for this was the very low electricity consumption due to the coronavirus measures in effect at that time and the high feed-in from renewables occurring at that same time. Also, the correspondingly high number of 40 hours of negative wholesale electricity prices contributed to a reduction of the average price.
On Monday 21 September the highest price of the year (€200.04/MWh) was reached between 7pm and 8pm. Electricity consumption was high (61.1 GWh) and there was a low level of generation from renewables (7.4 GWh) during this time.
Negative wholesale electricity prices were recorded in 298 of the 8,784 hours of trading this year (2019: 211 hours; 2018: 134 hours). The reason for the higher figure is the increased feed-in from renewables and the reduced electricity consumption.
Number of hours with negative prices
Data basis: smard.de
The longest streak of negative wholesale electricity prices was on Sunday 16 February, with 22 consecutive hours. The reason for this was the high feed-in from renewables, especially from wind farms due to Cyclone Victoria. Throughout the day, generation from renewables covered up to 95.5% of net electricity consumption (the grid load).
The six-hour rule took effect this year for a total of 192 hours (2019: 123 hours). In 2018 it took effect for 66 hours. Under the six-hour rule, larger new installations receiving EEG payments and selling electricity directly will not receive payment if the day-ahead price on the electricity exchange is negative for a period of at least six consecutive hours. Then the installation operator will not receive the market premium retroactively from the first hour in the period with negative prices.
Commercial foreign trade
Germany's commercial net exports for 2020 totalled 18.6 TWh, which is 3.9% of all the electricity produced in Germany. In comparison with the previous year, net exports fell by 47.1%.
The main customers for German electricity in 2020 were:
- Austria, with a net import from Germany of 18,427 GWh (down 6.1% from the previous year)
- Luxembourg, with 3,787 GWh (down 9.7% from the previous year)
- Czechia, with 3,769 GWh (up 94.5% from the previous year)
In 2020 Germany was a net importer from:
- Denmark, with 6,941 GWh (shift from net export of Germany to net import)
- Sweden, with 2,141 GWh (up 188.7% from the previous year)
- The Netherlands, with 1,603 GWh (shift from net export of Germany to net import)
In the months April, May, June and July, Germany imported more electricity than it exported. Looking at the past six years, this was also the case in June and August 2019.
Changes in commercial foreign trade are the result of frequent price fluctuations and are part of normal market activity. They reflect the interaction of supply and demand throughout the whole of Europe. Whether electricity is imported or exported does not depend solely on supply and demand, but also on the electricity prices of the other countries. Wholesale prices determined as a part of market coupling result from what are known as the relative generation costs, which vary over time. Among other things, wholesale prices reflect the costs of fuels or C02 certificates, which in turn depend on other factors.
Available transmission capacity at the national borders also plays a role. This October the two northern sections of the “central axis” went into operation. It connects Schleswig-Holstein and Denmark.
The first direct connection between Germany and Belgium, the Aachen Lüttich Electricity Grid Overlay or ALEGrO, was created and has a transmission capacity of 1,000 MW. Commercial trading commenced in November, beginning with day-ahead capacity.
For the first time, a direct connection between Germany and Norway, NordLink, went into trial operation. The 623-kilometre-long interconnector has a transmission capacity of 1,400 MW and has been planned in particular to enable the exchange of renewable energy.
The transition into regular operation is planned for February 2021.
The chart shows Germany’s commercial foreign trade with other countries throughout the course of the year.
All data mentioned in the article and shown in the visualizations can be updated afterwards.
Last updated: 02/02/2021