Germany Could Make $2 Billion By Exporting Electricity

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The Fraunhofer Institute has found that Germany made about €1.7 billion, or $1.93 billion, in 2014 by selling surplus electricity. In 2015, that amount could reach €2 billion or $2.2 billion. Germany may also achieve a record export surplus of 40 TWh of electricity in 2015. “Over the past years, Germany was able to secure higher prices for its electricity exports than it paid for electricity imports,” explained Fraunhofer professor, Bruno Burger.

germancliffsRenewables added 118 TWh of energy production capacity in Germany from the period beginning in 2010 through 2014. What are some of Germany’s other exports? According to one source, Germany exported about $2.6 billion in pharmaceuticals to Japan in 2014. In 2007, cheese exports were about €2.7 billion.

So, reaching two billion Euros in electricity exports is a level of revenue that could be considered significant. Of course, Germany needs badly to replace the electricity generated by nuclear and coal, and appears to be on track to do that.

Could revenues from electricity exports be used to expand renewables? If nearly 4 billion Euros worth of electricity are exported in two years, is that enough to try to position Germany as a leading electricity exporter in Europe over the coming years?

Is it possible to consider that Germany could reach 100% renewable electricity and begin to surpass that in order to supply electricity to some of its neighbors? How much revenue could Germany generate by selling electricity?

In a country with a GDP of about 3.8 trillion, maybe 2 billion a year is not that much, but something about seems very significant.

When Germany decided to pursue a renewable energy strategy, it might not have been as apparent then that some unknown potential existed, such as making money by exporting electricity. The thing is, if solar and wind power continue to drop in price, will the revenues from electricity exports continue to increase?

We generally hear that clean energy is about the environment or it is linked with climate change, but it seems more and more to be about economics.

Image Credit: JKB, Wiki Commons

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Jake Richardson

Hello, I have been writing online for some time, and enjoy the outdoors. If you like, you can follow me on Twitter:

Jake Richardson has 1008 posts and counting. See all posts by Jake Richardson

55 thoughts on “Germany Could Make $2 Billion By Exporting Electricity

  • But if everyone else will ultimately be making their own renewable energy, who would buy from Germany?

    • The UK ?

      • Don’t forget Scotland.

        • The Scots will be fine, they have all the turbines:) Never mind though, in ~ 20 – 25 years time we’ll be able to export all our lovely, home-grown, nuclear generated electrons to all those European countries we are currently in the process of p*****g off !

          • From Hinkley point? Doubt it.

          • I sincerely hope you are right.

          • Especially since the strike price is guaranteed to rise over 40 cents per kWh in about 20 – 25 years!

          • What will happen if Hinkley C is built is British electricity consumers, that is everyone in the UK, will pay 10 pence (15 cents) a kilowatt-hour plus modification for inflation for the nuclear electricity it generates, and then if there is any suplus to the UK’s requirements it will be exported for maybe 3 pence. Or if electricity prices are like what they were in Australia last night, perhaps one pence.

            It’s all part of the UK’s secret plan to become as wonderful as Australia. They figure that if they pointlessly waste billions of dollars and needlessly force up electricity prices, just like in Australia, it will stop raining all the time.

          • And that is much more believable than the justifications offered by the Tory loonspuds in charge here-;)

          • Sounds like Ontario’s cost experience with our aging nuclear fleet…..

          • Come on! Everyone will want to pay 3x-4x just so they can claim they get nuked electrons.

          • Aye, nice to watch our toasters and kettles giving off a nice blue glow in the early mornings-;)

        • Wish I could-;)

      • The UK is already importing German coal power via the international grid.
        With new Dutch generators now operating the Dutch grid is ‘full’ , it can’t accept much German electricity anymore.
        Some grid extension from the Netherlands to Belgium won’t make the situation for German generators any better, just allowing a better utilization of the Dutch generation capacities.

        • > The UK is already importing German coal power via the international grid.

          Can a country buy power from another country that it is has no power connections to?

          Britain has only power cable connections to France, Ireland and Nederland.

          > With new Dutch generators now operating the Dutch grid is ‘full’

          Could you provide a link?

          • For German electricity exports to the UK see Fraunhofer publication


            at page 5/16 under ” Power generation the first half of 2015 – Export surplus”


            ” The largest share of exports went to the Netherlands, and the Dutch passed on some of this electricity to Belgium and the UK. ”


            For Dutch power imports and exports see Entsoe transparency platform at


            I hope this link works.

            I used the donkey trail to achieve the data extraction but maybe you have a better method:

            Type in the peak load time for the Netherlands, I used 17.00-18.00 (trad. Dutch dinner time is 18.00 sharp) and started at 2/7/2015 adding day for day until yesterday.

            Reported peak loads for German imports were seen at 18/7 with 4.8 GW and at 22/8 with 4.1 GW
            The first time the Netherlands became net exporter of power was 27/8/2015, despite due to the season’s shorter days the readings being net power exporter increased after then(the Dutch map turns blue when being net-exporter)

            A peak import load of more than 4GW from Germany wasn’t seen since the Netherlands became net-exporter on the 27th of August.
            This must have been when Eemshaven hard coal went into operation, since then despite the days getting shorter and colder the peak load for imports from Germany has steadily decreased(with a few blips).
            Most of the time the Netherlands are now net exporter between 17.00 and 18.00(September,October and half of November).
            But as said: I used the donkey path and checked only 17.00 – 18.00

            Is there a method to get a graph showing the three curves together a.)German trade balance b.) UK trade balance c .) home-grown power?

            It would be interesting.

          • The Entsoe link doesn’t work, start from here:


            Click on The Netherlands (map) and type in date and time under ‘cross border physical flow’.

          • > ” The largest share of exports went to the Netherlands, and the Dutch
            passed on some of this electricity to Belgium and the UK. ”

            I do not think that counts as Germany export to Britain. It is more like Nederland buys cheap power from Germany (surplus) and that lowers the power price in Nederland. Britain then in turn buys power from Nederland. So German surplus will help to lower power price several countries away, but it is not a direct export.

          • Oha.
            The calculation balances are making you nervous.
            There is no French wine in the USA since the importers are based in Nassau …..

            Buy freedom fries, they’ll liberate your calculator 🙂


            More food for thought:


            A pipe turbine will be placed into an international oil pipeline.
            The pipeline transports oil from Triest/Italy to Germany and Czech – over the Alps through Austria.
            The main batch of oil fed into this pipe in Italy is from Northern Africa.
            It crosses on it’s way Austria where – using the force of gravity – it will drive a turbine generating electricity.
            This electricity will be used to drive an Austrian electric pump pumping the oil up again.

            Where is the power coming from and where does it go?
            Does it come from Africa? is it used in Germany? Or Czech?
            You see: if no oil arrives from Africa no turbine power can be consumed in Austria.


            Another one:

            There are many days per year when the lights would go off in England or France, in Belgium or Monaco, in the Netherlands or Luxembourg only because Germany’s grid managers stopped the feed-in into the European grid.

            During a recent event Belgium’s grid managers asked Austrian power generators to help out.
            Both countries don’t share a single inch of border.
            The Austrian generators get payed by Belgian consumers and German and French grid operators get payed as well for the transmission service.
            Three ‘different nationalities’ get payed for this job.
            But only the Austrian generators get payed for the power they have fed in.
            So was it ‘German power’ or ‘French power’ the Belgian grid operator received?


            I think I gave you the link before. Use the translation engine, the story is described in paragraph 4-6.


            A bottle of Foster brew coming from the UK and going to Cyprus is not being turned into German beer just because it drove along a German highway.

            This is as simple as I can get.



            The generators are getting payed for what they feed in.
            And the final consumer has to meet that bill.

          • “Can a country buy power from another country that it is has no power connections to?”

            Yes, this is done via the interconnectors, the national grid authorities can/must purchase power regardless from where as long as there is a chance to keep the grid functioning.

            Even atom-free Austria can export power to Belgium when the atom bangers there give in, see paragraph 4-6 here (use the translation engine via google):


    • Not all of Germany’s neighbors can easily be self sufficient in electricity.

      Belgium, Luxemburg and to a lesser extent the Netherlands have relatively limited potential for onshore wind and solar (extremely high population density and average resources at best). Belgium and Luxemburg are already big net importers, and nuclear power is due to end by 2025.

      For the Benelux countries, importing lots of power from Germany and France is the only viable option. A huge expansion of offshore wind and biomass are another option, but a horrendously expensive one.

      Some newspaper columnists here think that’s a worrying prospect. Apparently, depending on German wind power makes us vunerable and weak. I mean, who would want to be forced to rely on a wind turbine 200 miles away when you can rely on natural gas brought in from thousands of miles away?

    • Belgium. We’re definitely lagging.

    • Check out this interactive graph
      The radio buttons on the side allow you to filter by import/export.

      Electricity production in Germany in week 45 2015

    • Everybody will be buying from each other, to cancel out temporal variations in windspeeds and irradiance.

  • Would it be possible to use this surplus to reduce the high energy costs to German consumers, or are those costs already discounted?

    • To think of it as a ‘surplus’ is wrong.

      At no point in its recent history has Germany had a surplus in the strict sense (that is, renewables and non-responsive conventional generators like nuclear power stations produced more power than Germany used). It has never been forced to ‘dump’ excess power on its neighbors, unlike what some coal lobbyists like to say.

      Power trading in Europe is almost never about dealing with shortages or surpluses, it’s purely about arbitrage (undercutting competitors).

      Germany has a few neighboring countries with fairly expensive generation: the Netherlands depends heavily on expensive natural gas and Belgium’s power prices at peak times are sky high due to its extremely limited reserve margin. Via France, it can also send lots of power to Italy, another NG heavy country with high spot prices.

      Germany has had a glut of coal power stations for years if not decades now, and ever increasing energy efficiency only worsens that outlook. So what happened? Quite a few German coal power stations now run in function of Germany’s neighbors, making a small profit by undercutting Dutch and Italian gas. This is leading to a wave of power station closures in the Netherlands.

      Some environmentalists here in Europe call it ‘Carbon Dumping’: rather than closing its doomed coal stations, the German government throws them a lifeline by allowing them to sell cheap and dirty power throughout Europe.

      So to answer your question: not really. The power stations that account for Germany’s exports could be thought of as being independent of the German grid. Their impact on the German spot price is limited, as they are rarely if ever needed.

      • Aye, what you seem to be saying, is Germany is keeping its dirty power sector happy for the time being by allowing it to export “dirty electricity” to neighbouring countries?
        If so,who is responsible for the emissions, the producer or user?

        • Sounds like RWE AG got to the German govt. to keep the old dirty plants open to supply energy for export.

        • “If so,who is responsible for the emissions, the producer or “user?

          Look, even if we account the emissions on the German side the overall emissions are declining. The worst we see is a net substitution of NG with REs in the European context.

          “Germany is keeping its dirty power sector happy for the time being by allowing it to export “dirty electricity”

          “Interesting” statement. As the utilities can of course sell electricity they use the chance, do you really propose that the German government should prevent this? That would be stupid.

          Or from another POV: Nobody forces the Dutch to buy dirty German electricity.

          • Actually, the greater integration between EU countries and the liberalisation of electricity markets kinda does force the Dutch to buy dirty German electricity. A German coal producer has as much legal right to offer its power on the Dutch spot market as a Dutch NG plant has.

            Not that they would refuse cheap power even if they could… 😉

        • Yep, that’s precisely what happens.

          Emissions are counted where they are produced. So the Netherlands has managed a tidy ‘reduction’ in carbon emissions by switching off domestic NG in favour of imported coal power.

          Germany can still meet its targets, mostly thanks to improved energy efficiency. The rest of Europe gets cheap electricity that doesn’t count towards their own emissions figures. Everybody’s happy, except the climate.

          • Jake Richardson schooled by Larmion.

          • Your argument is outdated.
            In the Netherlands huge fossile generators were impotent due to bad material, delay in permissions and high generation costs.
            RWE – a German utility – used to sell coal/lignite power over the border from Germany to the Netherlands.
            Now a few GW of Dutch gas and hard coal generation are started, RWE runs Eemshaven for example and several gas power plants in the Netherlands.
            With the consequence that the German lignite plants are now getting cold.
            As Ulenspiegel and others pointed out: the market decides.
            With the German CO2 balance per generated kWh we will see a huge drop for 2015 and 2016 because of this market mechanism: foreign perma-importers start their own and German perma-exporters have no market anymore.
            If the high export balance will be kept at this level (see article) or even increased in 2016 – I doubt it very much.

            There is another factor to watch – Climate Change.

            Many hard coal power plants (some payed as a reserve capacity) in Germany are running dry because of the low water levels .
            We expect the record marking being reached this weekend and no big rain in sight. Some Swiss and Austrian hydro power plants are running dry as well.

            The latest warnings for the German and Austrian market are issued here:


            See from 30/10/2015 until today and expect more to come.

            The very warm year 2015 – even warmer than 2014 – will lead to a statistical greener power consumed in Germany.
            The dirty power being exported as base-load is reduced now, due to low water levels and higher availability abroad.

            Progress can’t be stopped, any new PV-panel means a few less kWh sold from the centralized system.
            And the numbers of systems is growing.

            In Switzerland plug-and-play systems are available from the DIY market, the EU works on a liberalised standard to allow for all EU citizens to use these things.


          • Sorry, I do not buy that a few more or less German coal power plants for around 5 years will change the GLOBAL situation.

            German dispatachable power will decrease until 2018, no chance that Germany will net export afterwards much coal power.

            A few years with higher exports of “dirty” power are the lesser evil in comparison to too much intervention of the German government. Coal is dying, let us simply wait.

          • But Morrison’s article did not answer the most interesting question: Would a different vote of the German EU politicians changes anything substantial or would the east European countries have blocked it anyway?

      • As stated below already – this carbon dumping is finished, the Dutch base-load market ceased to exist due to ‘own’ power plants going into production since September.

  • The only problem is that the surplus that they make money from is burning coal power and selling it to neighboring countries during the winter. So if they go renewable one day in the future there is nothing left to make money on.
    If they have surplus renewable energy then most likely other countries will have that too (during sunny or windy periods, they are not just locally over Germany) and that electricity is super-cheap, given away or even pay other countries to take it (historically, not so much when renewables stop getting incentives).

    It’s much more likely that they will sell it cheap when they have an excess than no one wants and buy expensive when they have the need for is (assuming getting rid of coal and natural gas plants).

    • “They” are who?
      The Swedish state? International share holders?

      The German power plants resp. their owners can be seen as dead men walking.Hence the state aid, similar to France and the UK, Belgium and Poland and so on.
      The Energiewende has happened, it’s the time now to watch an accelerated die-off of the old structures.

      EoN (see today’s news) and RWE have declared them self as incompetent to survive the Energiewende.
      EdF never started to change course and Vattenfall – I don’t know what the Swedish state plans.Selling-off German lignite capacities to penny stock companies, closing atom power and building wind power abroad – this could be the return to a local resp.national market.
      German EnBW has been already re-nationalized.

      Why exporting electricity if no privateering profit can be made?
      The liberalization has dissolved the profit-dreams, everyone can make cheap electricity nowadays.

    • “(during sunny or windy periods, they are not just locally over Germany)”

      You are right in the East-West direction, in the North-South direction it is another story. The weather in southern Europe is mostly quite different from that in northern Europe.

    • “If they have surplus renewable energy then most likely other countries
      will have that too (during sunny or windy periods, they are not just
      locally over Germany) and that electricity is super-cheap, given away or
      even pay other countries to take it (historically, not so much when
      renewables stop getting incentives).”

      Correlated generation is within a 1500 km distance, at larger distances we see a lot of uncorrelated generation.

      The dissertation of Gregor Czisch on “Supergrids” is very nice starting point for a useful discussion:

      Szenarien zur zukünftigen Stromversorgung – Kostenoptimierte
      Variationen zur Versorgung Europas und seiner Nachbarn mit Strom aus
      erneuerbaren Energien, Dissertation Kassel 2005, online

      As the windturbines have become much better in the last years, the situation is even more relaxed.

      We in the EU have only to avoid the mistake to see electricity generation as national projects. Transborder transmission lines change the rules of the game.

  • As many have mentioned below – the surplus is actually due to the remaining coal power plants operating more than required… not (yet anyway) renewables.

    Additionally, in a country with US$1.3 Trillion in exports and a US$285 Billion trading surplus, US$2 Billion is hardly meaningful…

    This is, by all accounts, making a story where literally no story exists.

    • Agreed that this amounts to just pennies on the dollar (or Euro cents on the Euro if you prefer).

      • Centaroos on the dollarydoo is my preference.

        • Did I just hear a didgeridoo in my head?

          I think I did, mate.

  • cool article…and again, I learn so much about the world from the comments below…keep them coming….

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