A model-based analysis of the future capacity expansion for German biogas plants under different legal frameworks

D. Balussou*, R. McKenna, D. Möst, W. Fichtner

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

19 Citations (Scopus)


As for other renewable energy sources in Germany like wind or photovoltaics, biogas has rapidly expanded in the past fifteen years. The installed electricity capacity for German biogas plants increased from 0.2 GWel in 2001 up to about 4.2 GWel by the end of the year 2016. This expansion has been supported in particular by the Renewable Energy Sources Act (EEG) through electricity Feed-In-Tariffs (FITs). However, major uncertainties are linked to the future capacity expansion in particular due to volatile electricity and energy crops prices. Taking into account this situation this paper analyzes possible future developments of the German biogas plant capacity up to 2030. For this purpose, a regional optimization model is employed, with the objective of determining the optimal economic development of the future biogas plants under different legal framework conditions. The base scenario with a constant energy crops cost evolution shows that the EEG 2012 framework -if maintained- would have fostered the development of agricultural plants, especially co-digestion plants valorizing energy crops and manure. The new EEG 2014 stops the expansion of energy crops mono-digestion plants, which will no longer be built due to an unprofitable situation. The German biogas market will thus face a paradigm shift and move towards the increase of biowaste and small-scale manure plants. Further scenarios quantify the impact of a strong variation of three main fundamental drivers, namely the energy crop costs, the EPEX-Peak electricity price and the biowaste valorization revenues, on future capacity developments. Based on the model results recommendations in direction of plant operators and policy-makers are formulated aiming at a more sustainable electricity production from biogas. Further work should consist in integrating the present analysis in national bioenergy models under the EEG 2017 legal framework.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)119-131
Number of pages13
JournalRenewable and Sustainable Energy Reviews
Early online date3 Aug 2018
Publication statusPublished - Nov 2018


  • Biogas
  • Economic analysis
  • Optimization
  • Scenario analysis


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