Mini case study: peak demand in Germany
According to the BP Statistical Review of World Energy 2008, German Primary Energy consumption dropped -5.6% in 2007. This is the largest drop of any nation surveyed except Denmark and Azerbaijan. According to the 2008 BP survey, Germany had ‘twin peaks’ in Primary Energy consumption in 1997 and 2001. Total consumption in 2007 was -7.9% off peak levels.
In 2007 oil consumption dropped -9.0%. German consumption peaked in 1998 at 2.915 million barrels per day. In 2007, consumption was 2.393 million barrels per day, meaning current consumption is -17.9% off peak levels.
In 2007, Natural Gas consumption dropped -9.4%. Coal consumption increased +3.0%. Nuclear decreased -16.1%. Hydro increased +2.6%. Other renewables are excluded from the survey, thought in total, renewables now provide about 14.2% of German electricity production.
I would volunteer a number of reasons for this, some of which I think are one-offs some of which are sustainable.
Sustainable Factors (some more sustainable than others)
- People using mass transit and high speed rail
- People buying more fuel-efficient cars and driving slower on the Autobahn
- Government incentives for using renewables, insulating homes, subsidies for commuting reduced, road pricing for trucks introduced.
- High take rate up for wind and solar due to feed in tariffs
- Heating fuel switching to solar & wood/pellets
- Heating technology switching to CHP and heat pumps
- Stable and aging population, less consumption growth and less growth in commuting
- Mindset to save costs, people heating and lighting their homes less and desire to help environment
- Sadly, warmer than average winters due to global warming
- Expertise in producing energy efficient technologies and bringing them available to market
- People fuelling their cars in cheaper neighbouring countries
- People running down their heating oil tanks
- Reduced purchasing power due to ongoing wage moderation and inflation
As we are now likely at or close to peak world oil production levels, what does the German example mean for everyone else? Initial savings come cheap and fast, but what happens when most of the fat has been cut out of consumption? Wind and solar to the rescue? – what happens when they reach grid parity? How transferable are some of these factors to emerging countries which are rapidly industrializing?