Renewable energies

Renewable energies1 make a large and growing contribution to Germany’s energy supply. In 2019, the share of renewable energies amounted to 14.98% of total primary energy.

Source: Working Group on Energy Balances April 2021 and AGEE-Stat. February 2021. For detailed source information see final note viii.

The proportion in the electricity sector is especially high. 42.0% of gross electricity consumption is cov- ered by renewable sources (242,434 GWh). The Federal Government has set itself the goal of increasing the share of electricity produced by renewable energy at 65% in 2030 and to almost completely decarbonise the energy supply by 2050 and thus to reduce green- house gas emissions. In 2019 around 82.8% of green- house gas emissions (670.2 Mt CO2 equivalents) could be attributed to the combustion of fossil energies.

Fossil-fuelled power plants are currently needed (in addition to renewable energies) to meet energy requirements in Germany. The technologies of renewable energy plants require steel, cement or petrochemical raw materials as the following example shows: The components of a wind turbine consist of roughly 45 % crude oil and petrochemical industry products. One wind turbine blade can be 30 to 50 metres long in large wind turbines and it contains up to 12 t of petrochemical products.

Some of the metals required for the energy transition (e.g. indium, germanium and gallium) are additional natural resources, i.e. they are obtained as by-products during the extraction of a different metal. In the case of these metals, the regulatory mechanisms for the supply of natural resources only function to a limited extent. In Germany and Europe, potential deposits like this do exist, with the result that import depend- encies could be reduced through the targeted devel- opment of these deposits, corresponding investments and the extraction of their natural resources.

In 2019, investments in renewable energies amounted to EUR10.7 billion, while the operation of the existing plants generated EUR17.2 billion in sales. The expan- sion of renewable energies can create a large number of new jobs due to the increasing demand for elec- tricity and heat and the goods and services produced with renewable energy. In 2019, the renewable energy sector overall produced employment for more than 299,700 people. Here the focus was on renewable energy in electricity generation. The expansion of renewable energies is financed by feed-in tariffs which are higher than the stock exchange electricity price. The difference in costs between the stock exchange electricity price and remuneration for the electricity from renewable energy plants (EEG) are paid for by electricity consumers as part of the price they pay for electricity via the EEG levy. In 2020, the EEG levy amounted to 6.756 ct/kWh for consumers who are not exempt in part or even in full from the levy, such as some major industrial consumers. Since 2021 the EEG levy is reduced by a subsidy from the Federal Government. In addition to revenue from the new national CO2 pricing for heating and motor fuels for transport and heating, a further EUR11 billion was given to the EEG levy from the economic stimulus package. As a result, a sharp increase in the EEG levy following the corona pandemic was avoided. The levy will receive increasing income from the CO2 pricing and possible remaining funds from the economic stimulus package and the intention is to reduce the levy further in the future. This will give relief to elec- tricity users and at the same time provide incentives for an energy transition across sectors. If renewable energies are to expand further, industrial energy pro- jects must be suitably combined with the development of the renewable energies. This also applies to the German natural resources industry, which has already established a series of wind, biomass, geothermal, solar and hydroelectric power projects in Germany.

Renewable energy sources are used in electricity and heat generation and in the transport sector. The most important renewable energy source in the electricity sector is wind power: In 2019, more than half (51.9%) of electricity was generated from wind energy. Wind energy plays a vital role in the expansion of renewable energies, an expansion which will ultimately result in an economically-viable and climate-friendly energy supply at reasonable prices and with a high level of general prosperity. In 2019, the use of wind energy accounted for 21.7% of German electricity consump- tion. Wind turbines have been built on various closed mine sites, mainly on now-green colliery slag heaps on which favourable wind conditions exist. In addition to the further development of suitable land sites and the replacement of older, smaller wind turbines by modern and more powerful models – so-called ‘repowering’ – the expansion of wind energy at sea is also becoming increasingly important. During the period 2017 to 2019 alone, wind energy turbines were installed with a capacity of around 8,000 MW on land and roughly 3,300 MW at sea. Wind turbines with a total capacity of around 60,721 MW were operating in Germany in 2019; they produced around 126,000 GWh of electricity in 2019, one fifth of which was generated by wind turbines at sea. The Federal Government is planning to have an offshore wind power of 20,000 MW on the grid by the year 2030 and between 67,000– 71,000 MW of wind energy on land. In view of this expansion and the ever-larger power units (more than 10 MW per offshore wind turbine), the need for min- eral natural resources will also increase. Concrete, for example, is required for the construction of wind turbine foundations. This also means a correspond- ingly higher demand for limestone for cement production and for aggregates such as gravel and sand.

Biomass has become a very relevant energy source for electricity generation. Bioenergy for producing elec- tricity is supposed to remain at the current level in view of the competition to use the land to grow food and fodder or generate energy. The total capacity of biomass electricity generation plants is around 9,988 MW, electricity generation in 2019 amounted to more than 50,200 GWh (8.8% of the total electricity consumption, 20.7% of the renewable electricity generation). In addition to biogas (including biometh- ane and landfill and sewage gas), solid and liquid bio- masses and biogenic waste are also used to generate electricity, but biogas is the most important single biogenic energy source for electricity generation with 57% (2019) of the entire biomass.

Another renewable energy source with great potential is solar electricity generation. More than 1.9 million photovoltaic plants convert the sun’s radiation energy directly into electricity – these plants represented a total of around 49,000 MW of installed capacity in Germany at the end of 2019, and around 3,800 MW of power were added in the same year. Electricity gener- ation from photovoltaics continues to rise steadily as a result, attaining approximately 46,400 GWh in 2019. Photovoltaics thus accounted for 8.0% of total electricity consumption and contributed 19.1% of renewable electricity. German mining companies are also increasingly opting for the use of photovoltaic systems at various mining sites in Germany.

In addition to wind, biomass and photovoltaics, hydropower also contributed to electricity generation with around 19,700 GWh in 2019.

Renewable energy sources are also increasingly being used in the heating sector. In 2019, a total of 181,700 GWh was produced by renewable heat sources. The most important renewable energy sources for heat generation are biogenic solids with around 114,300 GWh, produced mainly by wood in the form of e.g. wood pellets. Biogas, biogenic waste and geothermal energy and heat harnessed by heat pumps are also relevant renewable heat sources, each of which generated heat of approx. 14,000 GWh in 2019. Solar thermal energy also contributed to the supply of heat with around 8,500 GWh. Deep geo- thermal energy is a base-load-capable form of ener- gy, which makes up a very small but fixed element of electricity and heat generation. In general, the great potential of geothermal energy is not exploited in Germany.2 Apart from producing energy, deep geo- thermal reserves potentially have a material use such as for the extraction of lithium from the extracted brine. With this in mind, the use of brine can improve the cost effectiveness of geothermal projects, in particular in the Upper Rhine Plain and in the North German Basin. Here there is considerable need for research, even though pilot projects already exist.3

In the transport sector, biomass can reduce CO2 emissions, especially in the form of biofuels such as bioethanol, biodiesel and biogas for cars, trucks, trains, ships and aircraft. Electric vehicles are another option for reducing CO2 emissions. In 2019, renewable energies accounted for 5.6% of fuel consumption in Germany.

Thanks to its flexible use in the electricity, heating and transport sectors, biomass is the most important renewable energy source. In 2019, 52% of total final energy from renewable energy sources was provided by the various types of biomass used for energy purposes.

The expansion and use of renewable energies helps to avoid greenhouse gas emissions and reduces the use of fossil energy sources. The savings also reduce the proportion of imports of mineral oil, natural gas and hard coal required. Despite the expansion of re- newable energies, conventional power plants are still needed to meet energy requirements.

Study of the demand for natural resources in the field of renewable energies

In the course of producing the second D-EITI report the MSG commissioned a study on the effects of renewable energies on future natural resource requirements and the associated socio-economic implications. The Prognos Institute, commissioned to produce this report as an external service provider, prepared the study entitled ‘Raw material requirements in the field of renewable energies’ (2019) and sub- mitted it to the MSG. The complete study is available at Rohstoffbedarf-im-Bereich-der-erneuerbaren-Energien.Langfassung.pdf 4

However, the study did not deal with the extent to which the future demand for base and technology metals for renewable energy plants can be met by the mining of natural resources in Germany. Information on the deposits, extraction and requirement for these natural resources in Germany can be found in the reports of the Federal Institute for Geosciences and Natural Resources (BGR) and The German Mineral Resources Agency (DERA):

BGR (2019): “Germany Raw Materials Situation 2018” (Deutschland Rohstoffsituation 2018)5 BGR (2017): “Domestic mineral resources indispensa- ble for Germany!” (Heimische mineralische Rohstoffe unverzichtbar für Deutschland!)6 Marscheider-Weidemann, F.; et al. (2021): “Natural resources for future technologies” (Rohstoffe für Zukunftstechnologien) 20217

The following sections are taken from the summary of the study. The MSG is neither responsible for the con- tent of the study nor for the contents reproduced here and does not adopt them as its own.

Classification of the renewable energies in Germany’s energy supply and presentation of the natural resources requirements for EE plants

“[…] The conversion of the energy supply to renewable energy sources creates an additional demand for raw materials, while the demand for fossil raw materials is declining. The analysis of the raw material requirements carried out in the report relates both to energy conversion plants (wind power and photovoltaics) and to significant technological changes in the use of energy sources (stationary storage facilities and batteries for electric mobility). The study examined construction raw materials, base metals and technology metals. The estimation of the raw material requirements is carried out until 2030. The estimations are based on a future development of the energy system in Germany according to scenario B of the German grid development plan 2019 of the German transmission grid operators.8 This scenario shows a possible development path of the energy system taking into account the political objectives, i.e. in particular to achieve a share of renewable energies in gross electricity consumption of 65%.

In the case of construction raw materials, raw materials for concrete production play a significant role. In 2018, the demand for concrete used for newly installed wind turbines amounted to 1.8 million tonnes. The average annual demand is expected to remain constant at around this level in the future. However, the demand for construction raw materials caused by the energy transition is rather low compared to the demand in residential and road construction (Germany had a demand for ready-mix concrete of around 115 million tonnes in 2018).

Important base metals for the energy transition are steel and aluminium as well as copper and nickel. Steel is used in many plants as a building material. The demand for steel caused by the energy transition is of secondary importance compared to the overall demand for steel in Germany. Aluminium is widely used in wind turbines and car components. The expansion of electromobility is expected to result in an additional annual demand for aluminium of around 162,000 tonnes in 2030. In addition to wind power and photovoltaic (PV) systems, copper is also used in electric mobility. Copper is likely to experience significant demand impulses as a result of the energy transition. While the copper demand for wind power and PV plants was 11,200 tonnes in 2013, the annual cop- per demand will increase by an additional 73,500 tonnes for batteries, electric motors and power electronics by 2030. The demand for nickel for electromobility is estimated to be around 1,050 tonnes in 2016.

A ramp-up to around 1 million newly registered electric vehicles in 2030 would result in a nickel require- ment of around 56,000 tonnes.

In connection with the energy transition, the technol- ogy metals gallium, indium, selenium and silicon are of relevance due to their use in PV modules. The same applies to cobalt and lithium due to their use in lithium- ion batteries and to neodymium and dysprosium due to their use in wind turbines and electric motors. The future annual demand for technology metals for the production of PV modules will remain more or less constant. The annual demand for cobalt and lithium is rising significantly due to increasing battery sales. The same applies to the demand for the rare earth metals neodymium and dysprosium. This is in particular due to the increase in electromobility and to a lesser share due to the construction of wind turbines. Table 1 provides an overview of the future demand for tech- nology metals for key technologies of the energy transition.

The primary extraction of some of the raw materials required, e.g. cobalt, can be associated with high human rights, social and ecological risks, especially in countries with weak governance structures. In artisanal mining, child labour and a lack of social and safety standards can go hand in hand, which can also lead to health problems for the local population. Environmental pollution from the extraction of primary raw materials is also caused, for example, by deforestation (e.g. bauxite extraction), water evaporation (e.g. lithium extraction from salt lakes) and dam fractures (risk at mining sites).

Table I: Demand for technology metals for key technologies of the energy transition according to scenario B 2030

Technology metals

Technologies considered

Cumulated demand, 2018 – 2030 in tonnes

Calculated average, in tonnes per year

Gallium (Ga)

Thin-film PV



Indium (In)

Thin-film PV, thick-film PV



Cobalt (Co)

Lithium-ion batteries (e-mobility and stationary storage)



Lithium (Li)

Lithium-ion batteries (e-mobility and stationary storage)



Neodymium (Nd)

Permanent magnet generators for wind turbines, electric engines for HEV, PHEV, BEV, Pedelecs



Dysprosium (Dy)

Permanent magnet generators for wind turbines, electric engines for HEV, PHEV, BEV, Pedelecs



Selenium (Se)

Thin-film PV



Silicon (Si)

Thick-film PV (Thin-film PV)



Socio-economic significance of renewable energies

In 1990, the Electricity Feed-in Act (Stromeinspeisungsgesetz) introduced a subsidy mechanism to initiate the transformation of the energy system. For the first time, energy supply companies in Germany were obliged to purchase electrical energy from renewable generation processes (wind- and hydropower as well as solar energy and biomass). Today, the use of renew- able energies in Germany is largely promoted finan- cially by the Renewable Energy Act (EEG). The EEG introduced a levy on electricity consumption (with the exception of energy-intensive commercial consumers) in addition to the electricity price. The levy is used to finance the feed-in tariffs for renewable power generation. The EEG levy for 2019 is 6.4 ct/kWh. The expected levy for 2019 amounts to EUR 23 billion
Employment in the lead market “environmentally friendly energy generation, transport and storage” amounted to 284,000 people in 2018. The number of direct and induced jobs is subject to fluctuations and stood at 338,500 in 2016. Fluctuations in employment can be attributed among other things to fluctuations in the production of renewable energy plants and fluctuations in the number of plants installed in Germany.

A declared goal of the Federal Government is to increase the share of gross electricity consumption from renewable energy sources to 65%. Currently, the share of renewable energies in gross electricity con- sumption is approx. 38%. In order to achieve the tar- geted share, the installed capacity must be increased accordingly from 2018 to 2030. These expansion tar- gets face numerous challenges in the development of renewable resources. Challenges exist with regard to the designation of suitable areas and securing social acceptance.

The report then illustrates the socio-economic significance of renewable energies based on a regional analysis. The following three German regions will be presented: A North German wind region (consisting of the Federal States of Schleswig-Holstein, Mecklenburg-Western Pomerania and Lower Saxony) with a focus on wind energy, a Central German region (Hesse, Saxony-Anhalt and Thuringia) with bioenergy use, and a South-East German solar region (Baden-Wuerttemberg, Bavaria and Brandenburg), where solar energy plays a major role.

In 2017, 8,100 companies and 50,000 employees were active in the field of renewable energies in the North German wind region. The gross value added in 2018 was about EUR 5 billion. In the wind energy sector, around 4,000 companies and around 17,900 people were employed in 2018, which is roughly double the figure for 2010. Despite the strong growth to date, fluctuations are to be expected regarding future developments. For example, if the expansion of wind power plants stagnates, employment is expected to fall.

In 2017, 16,700 companies and almost 100,000 employees were active in the field of renewable energies in the South-East German solar region. The gross value added in 2018 was about EUR 11 billion. In the field of solar energy, around 5,500 companies with around 20,100 employees were active in 2018, which corresponds to less than half of the 2010 active work- force in the sector. The reasons for the decline in employment and value added include the relocation of plant production abroad and a decline in the installation of new plants compared with the high installation figures during the years 2010 to 2012.

The expansion of renewable energies also faces challenges. These include issues of volatility and security of supply as well as social acceptance of generation capacity expansion. While the majority are generally in favour of expansion, this support varies depending on the type of technology and appears to be decreasing depending on the degree of direct impact. Questions of nature and species conservation as well as noise and odour emissions also lead to acceptance problems.”


In Federal States in which legislation does not include an excavation law and the State-level Nature Conservation Law does not apply to the extraction of non-energetic, ground-based natural resources in the context of dry excavations, this type of natural resource extraction falls within the scope of the relevant state building regulations.

Legal limitations also exist: State building regulations apply to the excavation of solid rock (limestone, basalt, etc.), for example, in quarries with an area of up to 10 hectares (ha) in which no blasting is carried out. In the event that this area is exceeded, or if water bodies are formed after completion of the extraction operations, the German Federal Immission Control Act (BImSchG) and/or Water Resources Act (WHG) are applicable.
In Bavaria and North Rhine-Westphalia, the above-ground excavation of non-energetic, ground-based natural resources in the context of dry excavations is determined at state level by the existing excavation laws (AbgrG). For the excavation of solid rock (limestone, basalt, etc.) in quarries where blasting does not occur, the AbgrG applies to sites with an area of up to 10 ha. In the event that this area is exceeded, or if water bodies are formed after completion of the extraction operations, the German Federal Immission Control Act (BImSchG) and/or Water Resources Act (WHG) are applicable. In the other Federal States, this type of natural resources extraction is regulated by the respective state building regulations or by the state-level nature conservation laws.

In general, the AbgrG applies to those raw materials the excavation of which is not directly subject to mining law or the mining authorities. These raw materials include (in particular) gravel, sand, clay, loam, limestone, dolomite and other rocks, bog mud and clays. However, the jurisdiction between AbgrG and mining law can vary from case to case in the case of certain raw materials, such as quartz gravels. The requested authority must always verify its own jurisdiction in each case. The AbgrG also encompasses surface area usage and the subsequent rehabilitation of the area.
The German Federal Immission Control Act (BImSchG) is the most important and practice-relevant law in the field of environmental law. It constitutes the basis for the approval of industrial and commercial installations. In the natural resources extraction industry, quarrying companies must have approval to extract stones and earth. Every quarrying area of 10 hectares or more must undergo a full approval procedure, including public participation and UVP (environmental impact assessment). A more simplified approval procedure is used for quarrying areas of less than 10 hectares.

The sphere of responsibility for the legal immission control approval procedure is fully specified in the Immission Control Acts of the Federal States. The Federal States are tasked with the administrative enforcement of the approval procedure. Each individual state’s Environment Ministry – the highest local immission protection authority – usually bears the responsibility for this procedure. Subordinate authorities include regional councils, district authorities and lower-level administrative authorities. Administrative jurisdiction generally lies with the lower-level administrative authorities.
The GDP measures the value of goods and services produced domestically (creation of value) within a given period (quarter, year). The Federal Office of Statistics calculates the GDP as follows: production value minus intermediate consumption = the gross value added; plus taxes on products and minus subsidies = GDP
The gross value added is calculated by deducting intermediate consumption from the production values, so it only includes the value added created during the production process. The gross value added is valued at manufacturing prices, i.e. without the taxes due (product taxes), but including the product subsidies received.

During the transition from gross value added (at manufacturing prices) to GDP, the net taxes (product taxes less product subsidies) are added globally to arrive at an assessment of the GDP at market prices’. Source: Destatis
The planning approval procedure under mining law is used for the approval procedure of a general operating plan for projects which require an environmental impact assessment (§§ 52(2a), in conjunction with 57 a of the BBergG).
There are different definitions and methodological approaches at the international as well as at the national level as to what subsidies are and how they are calculated. According to the definition of the German government’s subsidy report, this report considers federal subsidies for private companies and economic sectors (ie grants as cash payments and tax breaks as special tax exemptions) which are relevant to the budget. Subsidies at the federal level can be viewed via the subsidy reports of the federal states (see Appendix 5 of the German government subsidy report).
In compliance with § 68(1), Water Resources Act (WHG), the excavation of landowners’ natural resources such as gravel, sand, marl, clay, loam, peat and stone in wet extraction operations requires a planning approval procedure. The reason for this is that groundwater is exposed in wet extraction, resulting in above-ground water. The planning approval procedure is implemented by lower-level water authorities.

The procedural steps of the planning approval procedure are governed by the general provisions of §§ 72 to 78 of the Administrative Procedures Act (VerwVfG). Within the meaning of § 68(3), nos. 1 and 2 of the WHG, the plan may only be established or approved if an impairment of the common good is not to be expected and other requirements of the WHG as well as other public-law provisions are fulfilled.