World Geothermal Congress 2020+1
March - October, 2021

The Energy Transition from Fossil Fuels to Geothermal Energy – a German Case Study


[Leibniz Institute for Applied Geophysics, Germany]

With the stipulated phase-out of nuclear power by 2023 and coal by 2038, Germany is one of the worldwide biggest technology-based populations on its way from fossil fuels to renewable energies. The renewable energy act from 2000, adjusted several times, induced the growth of the share of renewable energy (RE share). In 2017, final energy consumption in Germany was 9,329 petajoules (corresponding to 2,591 billion kilowatt hours) whereof 54% account for the heat share. According to the schedule of German Renewable Energy Sources Act (EEG) the RE share in gross electricity consumption shall increase at least 35% by 2020. This goal has already been achieved. In 2018, renewable energies accounted for 38.2% of gross electricity consumption, more than doubling their share since 2010 (17.0%). The situation is different for the share of renewable energies in heat consumption, although this accounts for the greater part of final energy consumption in Germany. The RE share on heat grew unsteadily and even dropped from 2012 to 2018 to 13.9% (Fig. 3) (target of EEG or EU is 14%). In 2018, the RE share in power and heat has so far accounted for only 16.7% of gross final energy consumption. At the moment biomass accounts for the largest contribution to renewable heat with almost 86%. However, due to its high space requirements and other environmental influences, it has only limited potential for expansion. The heating sector covers the largest portion of the primary energy consumption in Germany. Fossil fuels such as coal, oil and natural gas used hitherto for space heating can be substituted by geothermal energy due its low space requirements and scalable application opportunities. Due to the federal system in Germany, the political efforts to implement geothermal energy varies from state to state. Two examples of different energy needs and strategies to implement geothermal energy are presented: One example is the state North Rhine Westphalia, where the largest district heating net is located and the federal government envisages geothermal energy as major contributor to decarbonize this heating grid. Exploration and technology development has already started, however deep geothermal energy is not developed yet. Another example is the city of Munich in Bavaria, which aims as the first major German city to provide 100% of the district heating from renewable energies by 2040. Generally spoken, there is still a large potential for expansion through the utilisation of ground source heat pumps, especially for new buildings. In addition, in the next few years many outdated heaters must be replaced in the private sector. With already more than 382,000 installed systems in Germany, ground source heat pumps are a widespread, successful and affordable technology. The strength of geothermal energy lies in its scalability and efficiency with a wide range of applicable technologies and possibilities – depending on depth and end use. The case study Germany demonstrates that energy transition and climate protection can only be achieved with a heat transition, i.e. decarbonisation of heating facilities on all scales.

        Topic: Sustainability and Climate Change Paper Number: 05045

         Session 7B: Sustainability and Climate Change 1 -- Innovation [Tuesday 13th April 2021, 12:00 pm] (UTC-8)
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