Post-Winter Review: Electricity Now Cheaper & More Sustainable Than Last Year

(© Bas Meelker –

(© Bas Meelker –

2024/05/03 – On April 15, 2023, the remaining nuclear power plants in Germany, Emsland, Isar 2, and Neckarwestheim 2, were disconnected from the grid. The shutdown, anticipated a year prior, was accompanied by concerns about supply security and fueled the debate over nuclear energy. The criticism that CO2-free nuclear power plants were being shut down while coal-fired power plants were being brought back online was prominent among opponents of the phase-out. Yet, a year later – after the winter of 2023/2024 – a significantly more positive conclusion can be drawn.

More Renewable Power Than Ever Before

The nuclear power lost (6.3 TWh in winter 2022/2023) was more than compensated by substantial increases in renewable power (76.6 instead of 60.6 TWh = plus 26 percent). At the same time, production from coal-fired power plants decreased by 29 percent from 42.6 TWh to 30.2 TWh. Overall, more electricity was still exported from Germany during the cold season than was imported from neighboring countries, even though the surplus dropped from 10 TWh to 4 TWh. Therefore, the abandonment of nuclear energy had no negative effects on the German electricity grid in the winter of 2023/2024. The CO2 value of the German electricity mix, which the Federal Environment Agency still quantified at 434 grams per kilowatt-hour in 2022, even fell to below 400 grams for the entire year of 2023. Thus, electricity has become greener within a year – an also good news for drivers of electric vehicles.

Electricity Significantly Cheaper Than Last Winter

The good supply situation had a positive impact on electricity prices: while the price for a megawatt hour at the Leipzig power exchange was still at 162 euros last winter, it was noted a year later at 68 euros – a reduction of 58 percent. At least some of this was also passed on to the consumer: Germany's electricity customers paid on average only 37.1 cents per kilowatt-hour this winter, while the same amount cost 45.5 cents last year – a reduction of 18 percent. Drivers of electric vehicles were also pleased about this.

Imports Predominantly Green Electricity

The countries from which Germany imports the most electricity are Denmark and – by a large margin – Norway, Sweden, and the Netherlands. Imports of nuclear power from France or coal power from Poland played virtually no role in the German electricity mix during the past winter season. The share of nuclear power imported from France only reached about three percent in summer because the French nuclear power plants, due to their poor controllability, then produce surplus electricity, which they feed into the German electricity grid at low prices.

15 EU Countries Operate Without Nuclear Power

The German nuclear phase-out was often criticized as a solitary move in Europe during the winter of 2022/2023. In the EU, the share of nuclear energy is still 22 percent. However, a differentiated picture emerges: eight European countries still generate more than a third of their electricity production from nuclear power plants: especially France (62 percent), Slovakia (60 percent), Belgium (46 percent), Hungary (45 percent), and Slovenia (43 percent). Besides Germany, 14 other EU countries manage without nuclear power. The cleanest electricity mix among EU countries is in Luxembourg (93 percent renewable energy), Denmark (79 percent), and Latvia (76 percent). In contrast, fossil fuels still play a significant role in Malta (87 percent), Cyprus (83 percent), and Poland (78 percent).

Supply Not Endangered But Long-term Storage Capacity Necessary

The risk of a blackout in Germany has not increased due to the nuclear phase-out. The average power outage recorded in 2022 – when only three nuclear power plants were still connected to the grid – was only 12 minutes per household per year, even the second lowest value since 2006, when there were still 17 nuclear power plants producing electricity nationwide. While no figures are available for 2023 yet, Hauke Hermann, an energy expert at the Öko-Institut, says: "The electricity supply does not depend on individual power plants but is secured through the mechanisms of the electricity market and the already existing reserve power plants." However, to ensure long-term supply security with an increasing share of renewable energies, investment in storage capacities is indispensable