Germany set a new renewable energy record over the weekend, when solar, wind, biomass and hydro combined to supply as much as 90 per cent of the country’s total power demand at times, and sent power prices into the negative for several hours.
The spike at around midday on Sunday resulted from a combination of reduced demand and robust solar and wind energy supply – usually, renewables supply an average of 33 per cent of Germany’s power.
At one point around 1pm on Sunday the country’s solar, wind, hydro and biomass plants were supplying about 55GW of the 63GW being consumed, or 87 per cent.
The achievement serves to counter those who argue that renewables will only ever have a niche role in powering major economies, and also bodes well for Germany’s plans to shift to 100 per cent renewables by 2050.
As Climate Progress notes, it also highlights the success, thus far, of Germany’s Energiewende, or “energy transition,” which has used targeted policies to open the renewable energy market to utilities, businesses and homeowners.
But as others have noted, power surplus events like this aren’t all good news. They also serve to illustrate that Germany’s grid is still too rigid for power suppliers and consumers to respond quickly to price signals.
“Nuclear and coal plants can’t be quickly shut down, so they went on running and had to pay to sell power into the grid for several hours, while industrial customers such as refineries and foundries earned money by consuming electricity,” Quartz.com reported.
And, as Energiewende’s Craig Morris noted at the time of a similar event in Germany two years ago – almost to the day – negative prices are not necessarily a good thing, either.
“Granted, they hurt the conventional power firms that have worked to slow down the transition over the past two decades,” Morris wrote. “But we must meter out our cheerleading wisely.
“The previous week shows us that we continue to need considerable backup capacity on a regular basis. Negative prices make such backup capacity unprofitable.”