The cost of electricity in Germany has decreased so dramatically in the past few days that major consumers have actually been paid to use power from the grid. While “negative pricing” is not an everyday occurrence in the country, it does occur from time to time, as it did this holiday weekend. This gift to energy consumers is the result of hundreds of billions of dollars invested in renewable energy over the past two decades. This most recent period of negative pricing was a result from warm weather, strong breezes, and the low demand typical of people gathering together to celebrate.
Germany’s temporary energy surpluses are a result of both low demand and variably high supply. Wind power typically makes up 12 percent of Germany’s power consumption on a daily basis. However, on windy days, that percentage can easily multiply several times the average. The older segment of Germany’s energy portfolio, such as coal plants, are not able to lower output quickly enough. Thus, there is a glut of electricity. On Sunday, Christmas Eve, major energy consumers, such as factory owners, were being paid more than 50 euros (~$60) per megawatt-hour consumed.
Germany is not the only country that has experienced negatively priced power. Belgium, France, the United Kingdom, the Netherlands and Switzerland have all had to face the fortunate problem of too much energy. European countries are often able to share excess power with each other through the grid, though the system is far from perfect. This challenge highlights the essential need for affordable battery storage technology. With battery storage, countries will be able to save excess power in an energy bank, ready to be deployed in an emergency or simply returned to citizens in the form of cheap or even free energy.
Via the New York Times