Primary energy consumption markedly declined last year. Germany has therefore achieved its CO2 target for 2020. The declining fuel consumption also partly accounts for this – albeit to a comparatively limited extent.

Energy consumption in Germany declined by 8.7 per cent in 2020 versus the previous year – and therefore fell to a historic low. Compared to 2006, the year with the highest energy consumption in Germany since reunification, the decline is around 21 percent, as reported by the Working Group on Energy Balances (AG Energiebilanzen). Energy-related CO2 emissions are expected to have fallen by around 80 million tonnes, or 12 per cent, and as a result are likely to have been 42.3 per cent lower last year than in 1990, according to calculations by the Agora Energiewende think tank. Thus, Germany has, contrary to expectations, achieved its target of a 40 per cent reduction after all.

Yet: success has been achieved at a high price. For without the restrictions imposed by Corona, with their devastating consequences for many companies, the decline would only have been around 25 million tonnes. The reduction would have been only 37.8 per cent in this case – the 2020 target would have been missed.

The petroleum sector also played its part in the decline in energy consumption. AG Energiebilanzen calculated for example that the consumption of petroleum fell by a total of 12.1 percent in 2020. Whereas the heating oil sector was able to record a slight gain, the fuels sector was forced to accept substantial losses. According to the data available up to now, sales of petrol fell by 9.3 per cent and those of diesel by 7.7 per cent. Aviation fuel was particularly hard hit, with its consumption roughly halved.
The effects of this development were also felt by the vehicle manufacturers: there was sharp drop in demand for airfield tankers, whereas other segments remained comparatively stable.

This was of course related to the business development in the petroleum trade. The lockdowns were immediately noticeable at public service stations. In regions in which curfews were imposed, service station operators reduced their opening hours and in some cases their staff as well. The fluctuations were less noticeable among commercial diesel customers. In this case, it depended on the companies’ field of operation. Delivery services and carriers, for example, had a consistently high demand for fuel, whereas industrial customers were partly affected by shutdowns.

When all is said and done, 2020 was essentially a good year with adequate margins for the petroleum trade. The outlook for 2021, however, is viewed with scepticism. The impact of the Corona pandemic on the economy cannot be fully assessed at present. Accordingly, no reliable sales forecast for the petroleum business is possible.

One thing is certain: the demand for heating oil remains at a historic low, at least in the first quarter of 2021, as customers filled their tanks last year at advantageous prices. Now that winter has set in, demand could be boosted somewhat – but probably not until April.

At public service stations, the lockdown rules will determine developments over the coming weeks. In the commercial sector, it will be necessary to wait and see how the economy recovers. However, the petroleum industry is still not expecting margins like last year.

Credit/Source: ©AG Energiebilanzen