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Published on May 11th, 2016 | by Guest Contributor


Renewables Supplied 90% Of Germany’s Electricity On Sunday

May 11th, 2016 by  

Originally published on RenewEconomy.
By Sophie Vorrath

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.”

Reprinted with permission.


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  • Philip W
  • Bob_Wallace
    • FruityPimpernel

      Fantastic visualisation.

      • Bob_Wallace

        It really impressed me. I was having problems finding a way to embed and tried it here. I think there will be an article out about it in a little while. It’s off topic, but I think I’ll leave it here if there are no objections.

    • Carl Raymond S

      I found it frightening (the way that last loop jumps into new territory) and depressing (suggests that even if the world does throw everything at the problem immediately, it’s still too late).
      There are other points where it jumps into new territory, then seems happy to stay cool for a while, so lets hope that’s what happens next.

      • Carl Raymond S

        The other reason it’s depressing is that we (Australia) are in election mode till July 2, and both major parties are being clear there will be “no carbon tax”. The last election was won by a party that shouted “no carbon tax” at every opportunity, and the “lesson” was learned.
        Simultaneously the people are demanding action on climate change! The great failure all round has been to educate people the best way to combat climate change, is to put a price on carbon. Or should I say that the success of the fossil fuel lobby has been to convince enough people that a price on carbon leads to unemployment. And that’s hard to counter because it does put coal workers out of work – but only until such time as they find a better job in RE.

        • nakedChimp

          I just don’t understand why the people in power (the ones in real power, not the puppets we get shown) seem to be so uneducated or having so bad aides and assistants?
          What do I miss?

          • super390

            There is no fundamental reward in market economics for caring about the future. Any advantage gained in the present by sacrificing the future is a bird in the hand. And you can use that to bribe politicians and rig the laws and fake the evidence to shift that future sacrifice to someone else.

            But most of all, why shouldn’t the rich behave like parasites jumping from national host body to host body while they accumulate the wealth to build their own private kingdoms? Consider that great mountain of gold and silver that the conquistadores stole from the Aztecs and Incas. Where did it go? It’s not in Spain now for sure. It was spend in endless wars and resulting debt service, into the European banking system, and much of it ended up in Spain’s mortal enemy Britain. Then in the 19th century Britain became America’s biggest creditor, lending our ancestors the gold to build our railways and factories. Then Britain just about bankrupted itself in WW1 buying weapons and resources from the US and the gold just stayed there.

            So think of that mountain of wealth as a sort of faceless monster that possesses different ruling classes and then abandons them for the next great empire, growing ever larger while the rest of the world deals with bigger messes left behind.

          • Jenny Sommer

            Kind of poetic.

          • nakedChimp

            So in essence you think they think they can always get a safe & nice place, no matter what condition planet earth is in?
            I hope (and think) they are not that stupid, or their aides aren’t.
            They depend on all kinds of services from other humans (which them self depend on other humans) to be able to life those nice lives. It’s all a big long chain of dependencies.. they must know that.
            If they don’t OR if they do but don’t care we’re in really deep shit here.

  • Are Hansen

    Fantastic. Germany is the largest economy in Europe, with a big industrial base consuming enormous amounts of power. If they can do it, so can the USA

  • Peter Murphy

    I’ve gone looking at various new stories on the web to try and figure out why a power company would pay people to use its electricity. It doesn’t make any sense. Give it away for free if it’s some issue about relieving excess power in the grid or something (is that ever an issue?) but why pay people? One story I found about a similar thing in Texas said a utility there paid consumers $8 per MWh or something, in order that it could keep claiming a $22 per MWh, so that makes sense. Is that the motivation behind the German case also? I haven’t seen any stories that explain it.

    • Jenny Sommer

      Plants that don’t ramp fast enough have to sell power to the grid.Where else would it go? If the grid took power for nill the grid would overload at such times. Where else would the overcapacity go?
      A workaround for nuclear plants would be to built their own storage offgrid.

      • Peter Murphy

        Thanks Jenny, I understand the bit about storage but not the rest. Does power have to go somewhere or can’t it just kind of buzz around at the power station and sort of dissipate into nothing? (I’ve never studied any physics). I get the idea that you can’t stop a river flowing for example, but electricity doesn’t take up any physical space. Does it have to go somewhere? Would something at the power station blow up if it didn’t? And if a coal or nuclear provider can’t ramp down fast enough, wouldn’t it be better to just have all the generated steam blow out the chimney instead of through the generating turbine, than be forced to pump power into the grid and have to pay for doing so?

        • nakedChimp

          If you need x people to run the plant, x amount of coal/water/etc to keep it running (idle) and compare that to what it takes to get the plant running from a total standstill.. it takes hours to ramp up a power plant.
          It costs money.
          Imagine a car running along at 80km/h vs a start from a traffic light.

          If you compare the cost for a startup vs keeping it running (idle) for those couple of hours you’ll find that it makes economic sense to push through and pay someone to take the power off you.

          As for why they can’t just decouple the generators.. they still burn coal, the heat exchanger still vaporizes water, they still need to cool it, there turbines can’t just be taken out of that loop (at least it’s not designed for that scenario).. so yeah, the generator as a driven load needs to be there so the turbines don’t go through.
          This means there are electrons pushed, voltages created.. better get them some load to run through as otherwise they will need to somehow manage to find their ‘way’ within your power plants/generator and they’re not designed for that scenario either (arcs, etc).

          That these couple of hours now become a bunch of hours and turn into most of the day is a real problem for them as their calculations don’t work there anymore. That’s why they look to become back up or whatever and getting paid for just being there and being able to deliver when RE isn’t working. Problem is, RE seems to be working fine most of the time..

          • Peter Murphy

            Ah, thanks – so whereas in Texas, it was about absolute financial gain, this is about minimising inevitable losses when there isn’t enough demand for the plant’s power. Makes sense. I guess they have direct contact with big consumers like steel mills etc to tell them to let rip, since domestic consumers have no way to know the power company would appreciate everyone jumping up to do their tumble drying when there’s a big power surplus. (I guess there aren’t fluctuating prices minute by minute for consumers that would help with this. Maybe that’ll all come with smart meters.)

          • Bob_Wallace

            Yes, we should see more dispatchable loads coming online. Especially at the residential level.

            Your washing machine or dishwasher could wait for a price signal from the utility to make its nightly run. Your freezer could cool down a few more degrees, And your EVs could charge when prices are best.

          • JamesWimberley

            Still waiting for Apple or Google or somebody to come up with intelligent, integrated and user- friendly home management software. I used to think Google had the inside track with Nest, but the control freak CEO they put in is blowing it.

        • Steven F

          “Thanks Jenny, I understand the bit about storage but not the rest. Does power have to go somewhere or can’t it just kind of buzz around at the power station and sort of dissipate into nothing?”

          The more power you dump on the grid the higher the grid voltage. If you dump too much power on the grid the voltage could get high enough to damage electronics. Even higher voltage will damage circuit breakers, transformers, burn out wire insulation, and possibly destroy the generator.

          So to prevent that from happening they must throttle down the power plant or convince someone to use the power. So if you cannot convince someone to take the power you must throttle down. Unfortunately large power plants cannot throttle down quickly. They have a lot of inertia. Furthermore they are often quite limited in how much they can throttle. If they cannot throttle down enough they must shut down. For a large power plant that is not as simple as it sounds . And it is much harder and time consuming to restart the power plant.

  • Richard Foster

    Not directly related, but sort of related. The UK grid has run with zero GW coal for the first time since the 1870s. Not once, but three times in the last week.

    First time was for a few hours Monday night/Tues morning, then again last night (Thur morning between 12am and 6am). Both of these were important, but even more important is the fact that it’s now daytime and there has again been zero GW coal since 10am this morning….

    Worth an article on CT?

    • Richard Foster

      Compare to 1 year ago and the average from coal in May was very approximately 5GW.

      • FruityPimpernel

        I agree Richard, amazing to think it was really 5GW this time last year, and well worth a story on CT. Just looked at Gridwatch and still 0.0% coal at 2pm UK time today. Literally NO coal being burned anywhere in the nation that sparked the industrial revolution off the back of coal. Amazing historic and heartening stuff. Didn’t expect coal to wither so rapidly. It will be amazing to see the UK CO2 figures for 2014 and 2016 – should be dramatically lower I would have thought. No dirty emissions and less water used too.

        • FruityPimpernel

          Another thought – looks like Gridwatch will need a new dial for Total Demand. I have seen it dip below the minimum 25GW a few times already this year (I really should get out more). I assume this is partly the contribution of solar not being measured as output but presumably it’s also about ‘negawatts’ – smarter demand reduction and greater energy efficiency. Another CT worthy story?

  • S Herb

    It is informative with these plots to imagine both solar and wind increased from the current capacity values in Germany (roughly 40 GW each) by a factor of three or four, as will happen. It gives you an idea of the magnitude of the generation/use mismatch problems that must be solved. That’s also true with the plots with no sun and no wind (3×0 = 0). The problems will indeed be soluble, but we must already be thinking about directions (for example Denmark’s use of excess wind for water heating).

  • heinbloed

    Agora (where the charts come from) is making some funny numbers up.
    NEVER in the German history 66 GW of power had been consumed on a Sunday at 11.00 as Agora claims since Monday (see charts).
    The 66 GW consumption claimed by Agora would be an absolute record.

    For more real numbers check Fraunhofer ISE :


    According to Fraunhofer ISE the RE-coverage of the German power demand was 98% (!!) at 11.00 on Sunday the 8th of May 2016

    About the faked data from Agora: check the previous Sundays incl. the RE-records:


    As said: Germany never consumed 66 GW on a late Sunday morning. Agora knows that very well but for some obscure reason claims now 66 GW consumption.

    • Bob_Wallace

      Might it be German consumption + electricity exports?

    • JamesWimberley

      It strikes me as a significant hole in the various versions of the EEG that distributed solar owners don’t have to report self- consumption. This would have beeen entirely reasonable given the large scale of public financial support, but they didn’t write in in. So there is considerable guesswork about the real levels of demand and solar supply.

      • heinbloed

        Most PV installations are below the 10 kW threshold, below this level no self-consumption is demanded.
        And above the 10 kW limit only for newer installations (2015?) a certain self consumption is demanded resp. the equivalent not being paid via the FIT – as far as I know.


        What might soon come into they grey zone of guesstimating is the guerilla PV, I run myself a small one without metering.

        The EU parliament is demanding from the EU-commission to streamline the demands and legislation for small scale generation units(guerilla PV), asking for the easiest and cheapest generalization according to already existing low-bureaucracy(Portugal,Switzerland, Netherlands):


        After this is passed it will be hard for the grid providers and market observers to give precise numbers of power generation or total consumption 🙂

        Maybe a few hundred or thousand grid connected clients will be equipped with intelligent meter and the measured results being upscaled, we’ll see.

  • egriff5514

    More astonishing to me is the daily/daytime amount of power from renewables – yesterday at 1400 local it was over 50% solar and wind on this:


    (look at Power tab for Germany/Austria planned/actual production).

  • vdiv

    So pretty soon they will have excess energy. Is this likely to slow down the push toward further increase in renewable capacity or can they compensate with storage and managing industrial use?

  • Kraylin

    Great news for such a heavily populated country! So what are electricity prices for residential users in Germany?

    • Bob_Wallace

      Residential electricity prices are high in Germany. But it’s mostly due to taxes and levies, not the cost of electricity. Retail electricity, without taxes and levies runs 14.3 euro cents per kWh. The EU27 average is 14.0 cents.

      Germany piles a lot of taxes on top of the cost of electricity giving residential consumers some of the highest priced electricity in Europe.


      • John_ONeill

        What’s the source for your price info Bob?

      • Guest

        Thanks, Bob. The funniest piece of information from the graph you posted is that Denmark’s residential electricity prices (minus Ts & Ls) have been coming down consistently, whereas France’s haven’t. Indeed, a graphical testimony in favour of renewables’s intrinsic lower costs over nuclear’s!

        • nakedChimp

          Even funnier.. if the industry in Germany was lifting it’s fair share of cost for the Erneuerbare Energien Wende residential customers would also benefit from lower costs for electricity.
          So the industry is enjoying historical low electricity prices while the end customer is the Gelackmeierte.
          And to top it off, now they’re going for the community RE power projects and try to restrict them to leave more for the big boys that did come late to the party.
          A single Misthaufen the whole thing if you ask me.
          Freaking crony capitalism.

        • Bob_Wallace

          France recently reported that the cost of electricity from their nuclear fleet is rising. They’re going to close a bunch and install (have already started to install) renewables.

      • globi

        It’s absurd given the fact that Germany supposedly wants to reduce its dependence on Russia, but instead of taxing fossil fuels (for hot water purposes) it taxes electricity.

        • Bob_Wallace

          The fossil fuel industry seems to still have some political power in Germany.

          Take a look at what is happening in Denmark as they add more wind to their grid. And it’s (close to shore) offshore wind.

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