Summary Statistics of Emissions Avoided, Fossil Fuels Offset, Imports Avoided, and Overall Cost Savings in Germany during 2008 from Feed-in Tariffs

By Paul Gipe


The following are just some of the data found in a report by the German government on the development of renewable energy. The data should put the lie to (but probably won’t) il-informed or malicious charges that renewable energy development in Germany either doesn’t offset any emissions of global warming gasses or doesn’t offset the burning of any fossil fuels. Both charges are riduculous on their face but here are real numbers from an official source to refute such claims.


Emissions Avoided

The same kind of statistics exist for other countries with a large percentage of their generation coming fromm renewables. However, the Germans are much better at translating their documents into English for us language-challenged anglophones and much better at making data publicly accessible than other European countries.


Electricity Generation Avoided

Note that renewable electricity generation offsets electricity. That should be obvious, but it isn’t always so to those who don’t know how electricity is generated. Thus, a kWh of wind or solar electricity offsets more than the simple thermal equivalent kWh of a kilogram of coal or a cubic meter of natural gas. The reason is simple enough: most thermal plants convert only about one-third of the thermal energy of fossil fuels into electricity. Therefore, one kWh of wind or solar will offset about 3 kWh of a fossil fuel. In the German case it’s somewhat more than 2 as shown below (93 TWh to 233 TWh of fossil fuels).



Imports of Fuel & Electricity Offset

The German goverment calculates that renewable energy saved the country €2.7 billion in 2008, up from €0.9 billion in 2007 from the importation of electricity and the fuels needed for electricity generation (page 28). Thus, in contrast to the claims of some sceptics, renewable energy savings in the electricity sector is increasing in Germany. Stated another way, renewable energy is not increasing imports, but decreasing them.


Costs & Benefits (Official)

The Germans calculate that the EEG program cost ratepayers a total of €4.5 billion in 2008.

Meanwhile the ratepayers saved €2.7 billion from imports, and a whopping €5 billion from the merit order effect that lowers overall electricity prices (page 37). In addition, all citizens saved €2.9 billion from avoiding external environmental costsThe total savings tally €10.6 billion, more than double the cost of the program–and this doesn’t include any benefits in foreign trade or job creation. The benefits of the merit order effect in lowering the costs of electricity alone probably paid for the out-of-pocket costs of the German feed-in tariffs.