Conventional electricity imports are the Achilles’ heel of the German energy transition

Press release – Thursday, September 30, 2021

EUPD Research study findings show that about two thirds of private households are concerned about increasing electricity imports based on conventional energy sources. An analysis of German electricity imports in 2021 reveals a heterogeneous picture. With a share of 67 percent of nuclear energy in its own electricity mix, France is currently the second largest electricity exporter to Germany. The Czech Republic and Poland have a high share of energy from coal, but with nine and five percent respectively, they are rather smaller electricity exporters to Germany. The success of the German energy transition requires an appropriate expansion of renewable energies and storage capacities for their successful integration. The analysis is part of this year’s Energiewende (Energy Transition) Award, which is granted to excellent energy suppliers of the DACH region.

Bonn. Political debates around the German parliamentary elections have more than ever put climate change and related issues in the center of the public discussion. Despite the difference, there is a cross-party political consensus that a successful energy transition requires a massive expansion of renewable energies and the shutdown of conventional power plants. The Bonn-based consultancy EUPD Research exposes people’s concerns regarding the energy transformation process in its latest study. More than two-thirds of the 500 surveyed homeowners in Germany raised concerns regarding conventional electricity imports from abroad. About 40 percent of the survey participants are skeptical regarding the speed of the renewable energy expansion in Germany, while about one-fourth see the danger of an impending energy shortfall against the background of the planned nuclear and coal power phase-out.

Whether raised concerns of surveyed homeowners are justified can be seen in the analysis of the German electricity import during the first eight months of 2021. The largest electricity import countries to Germany are Denmark, France and Switzerland. The countries make up 54 percent of the electricity exports. While Denmark’s electricity mix does not contain nuclear energy and only twelve percent of coal-based energy, France’s has the highest share of nuclear energy – namely two-thirds – compared to the rest of Europe. Switzerland uses one-third of nuclear energy. The largest share of coal-based electricity can be found in the Czech Republic and Poland. Besides 46 percent of coal-based electricity, the Czech Republic uses another 35 percent of nuclear energy. Poland, however, produces almost three-fourths of their electricity in coal-fired plants.

In addition to analyzing the status quo, the study examines the development of electricity imports to Germany. It reveals that French electricity imports between January and August in the pandemic-driven year 2020 were higher than in the same period of the previous year. Currently, the share of electricity imports from France to Germany is with currently two terawatt hours significantly lower than 2020. On the contrary, the Czech energy imports increased by ten percent between 2020 and 2021, after it was significantly lower between 2019 and 2020. A considerably strong increase of electricity imports to Germany is seen from Poland. Starting at a lower level, the Polish electricity import rose by 400 percent in 2021, compared to previous year.

The success of the energy transition requires a full restructuring of the conventional fleet of power plants to renewable energies. Because of an increased electricity consumption for the electrification of mobility and heat generation, as well as lower full load hours of renewable energy systems, the installed capacities in Germany have to nearly double within the current decade. While conventional power plant capacities decreased by ca. one-third, the installed wind energy production (on- and offshore) increased to 100 GW. The by far strongest growth is to be expected for photovoltaics, which may quadruple between 2020 and 2030 to 217 GW. For the integration of the future fleet of power plants with a dominant share of solar energy and wind power, the restructuring and expansion of the electricity grid is as important as building large storage capacities for the short-term storage, by means of battery storage as long-term chemical storage of hydrogen.

“The energy transition in Germany must be viewed in the context of transformation processes of countries connected within the European electricity grid. A shift of the German nuclear and fossil fuel phase-out by means of trading in electricity between countries thwarts the domestic energy transition (“Energiewende”). Only a joint expansion of renewable energies and storage capacities for its integration can lead to a successful energy transition”, comments Dr. Martin Ammon, Managing Director at EUPD Research.

Energiewende Award for energy suppliers
The most innovative energy providers will be honored with the Energiewende Award at the innovation platform “The smarter E Europe“, taking place for the 5th time on October 7, 2021. The Award is addressed to highly engaged energy suppliers, who promote and accelerate the Energiewende (Energy Transition) in the DACH region. The project initiators are the DCTI Deutsches CleanTech Institute (German CleanTech Institute, The smarter E Europe and EUPD Research. For the third time, this year‘s Energiewende Award is being supported by our partner Vaillant.

Further information about the Energiewende Award can be found at https://www.energiewende-award.de . In case of questions, please contact Saif Islam, at +49 (0) 228 97143-20 oder islam@energiewende-award.de