[Watch/Read] When Germany Had To Pay Its Consumers To Use Electricity – 8th May, 2016

Richa Verma

May 25th, 2016


No, we have not made a mistake in giving this great news. It is true indeed that on 8th May Germany actually generated so much energy that it had to pay the consumers to use all that power. It was a rare case of a country’s supply outdoing its energy demand. Even more heartening is the fact that 93% of this was generated using renewable – from wind turbines, hydroelectric dams, solar energy farms and biomass plants. This feat was achieved as a result of Angela Merkel’s Energiewende policy which seeks to phase out nuclear and fossil fuels, replacing them with renewable energy.

The incident:
According to data from German clean energy think tank Agora Energiewende, from 3:00 am to 10:00 am on 8th May, 2016, Germany was able to generate so much more energy than was in demand that the consumers had to shell out negative euros to use electricity. It was a sunny and windy day and at one point around 2 pm, renewable supplied 45.5 gigawatts of energy while the demand was around 45.8 gigawatts. During several fifteen-minute periods on that day, power prices dropped to negative (- 50 euros or $ 57) a MW per hour as per the data from Epex Spot.

Although the incident was a fluke, it spelt out a victory for those in favour of using renewable energy. It brings to mind the period in 2015 when Denmark had 140% of its energy demands fulfilled through wind energy. At times the country exports energy to Germany, Norway and Sweden. At present Germany aims to reach the mark where 100% of energy is supplied through renewables.

Advantages of renewable energy:
The first obvious advantage is of course that unlike fossil fuels such as coal or oil, which will be exhausted at some point of time in future, renewable energy will keep renewing itself. It is a more sustainable source of energy which can rise to meet the world’s increasing energy demands. Hence, it would be great if we could make efforts to switch over to renewable energy sooner rather than later.

Going green means less health hazards which are associated with using fossil fuels. An instance was when, in preparation for the parade day in September 2015, China had banned cars for two weeks and shut down many factories. The Air Pollution Index had dropped to 17 (out of 500) from the normal average of 160. The result was a clear blue sky.

Since sources of fossil fuels cannot be replenished, prices of fossil fuels will continue to rise. Only a renewable form of energy has the potential to decrease the prices in future. This has happened in the US for example. Since 2009, the price of solar energy has dropped 70%.

From 2013 to 2014 the number of jobs associated with clean energy jumped 13% according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. This means that the concern that switching over to renewable will create unemployment falls flat. With a little bit of training, the expertise can be shifted from fossil fuels to renewable energy supplies. We can surely make the extra effort for the sake of mother earth before it is too late to reverse the carbon footprint and other kinds of pollution which are depleting our ecosystem.

The only disadvantage in Germany:
The power grid system in Germany is as yet too rigid to allow a quick response to price signals by power suppliers and consumers. While gas power plants were switched off, it was not so easy to switch off nuclear and coal plants. Hence, they kept on supplying extra power to the grids and had to pay the consumers to use electricity.

Thus we see that the advantages of using renewables far outnumber the disadvantage, which results from faulty implementation rather than environmental concerns. There can be backup provisions to tackle with shortage of renewable energy when needed.

The Logical Indian community lauds this extraordinary feat achieved by Angela Merkel’s initiative and hopes that other countries across the globe take the cue from there. After all, in June last year 195 countries had signed the Paris climate control accord and making the jump from fossil fuels to renewable energy is the only way forward if we are to achieve the targets of the Paris protocol.

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