CO2 emissions in Germany at their lowest in 70 years, except for cars

CO2 emissions from Germany, Europe’s leading industrial nation and the largest energy consumer in Europe, have reached their lowest level in around 70 years, thanks to a stronger-than-expected decline in the use of coal. Greenhouse gas emissions reached 673 million tons of CO2 last year, “the lowest level since the 1950s” and significantly down from 746 million tons in 2022.

The decline is “largely attributable to a sharp reduction in coal-fired electricity production,” notes the group of experts of Agora Energiewende, a think tank supporting the Energiewende in Germany.

On the other hand, the average CO2 emissions of newly registered cars in Germany in 2023 increased by almost 5% to an average of 115 gr/km.

Renewable energy sources

Over half (56%) of Germany’s electricity last year was generated from renewable sources, such as sun, wind, water, and biomass. In 2022, it was 47,4%. For comparison: in the Netherlands, the share of renewable energy rose to approximately 50 percent last year.

The increase is partly due to the wet weather. In 2023, more rain fell than the year before, and hydroelectric power stations could benefit from this: they generated more than 16,5 percent more electricity than in 2022.

Highest wind energy level ever

The amount of electricity generated from solar energy remained stable. More solar panels were installed, but there was less sun. Onshore wind turbines performed 18 percent better. At more than 119 terawatt hours, the amount of wind energy produced in 2023 was the highest ever measured in Germany. Many wind turbines have also been built in the country in recent years. On the other hand, offshore wind turbines produced less due to maintenance work.

Less power was generated from conventional sources such as coal (26% in 2023, 34% in 2022) and nuclear energy. The last nuclear reactors in Germany were closed in April. Germany, the largest economy in the eurozone, wants to be climate-neutral by 2045.

Energy consumption in Germany decreased by 3,9% year-on-year, reflecting the difficulties of the industrial sector. Emissions from the industrial sector fell by 20 million tons, or 12% year-on-year.

Cars emit more

As already mentioned, the average CO2 emissions of newly registered cars in Germany rose by almost 5% in Germany to 115 gr/km. For comparison, this is some 10 gr/km more than the average in Belgium.

The reason seems to be obvious. At the end of 2022, the tax incentives for hybrid cars died, and in December, the German government decided overnight to stop all premiums for electric cars. The result was an increase of 40% in average CO2 emissions for that month because the sales of BEVs fell sharply.

Over the whole year, according to the German Motor Transport Authority (Kraftfahrt Bundesamt or KBA), a total of 524 000 BEVs were newly registered, an 11,4% increase compared to 2022 and meaning that 18,4% of total sales were now fully electric, compared to 17,7% in 2022.

The disappearance of almost all incentives to encourage the energy transition to fully electric cars could have a serious influence on the results for 2024, as the steep decline in BEV  and PHEV sales in November and December of 2023 already showed.



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