Germany's vigorous efforts to raise its use of renewables has led to a situation in which utilities have at times been compelled to pay customers to take on their surplus power in order to avoid gumming up the grid.
While renewable energy frees countries from their dependence on fossil fuels and has demonstrable benefits for the environment, it can also be highly fickle due to its dependence upon changeable weather conditions, creating the dilemma of a either potential surplus or dearth of power at any given time.
This problem has become especially apparent in Germany due to the country’s hefty push for renewable energy, pursued in tandem with efforts to wind down its usage of nuclear power.
When generation by renewable facilities reaches a peak as a result of favorable weather conditions, Germany can see negative wholesale prices for energy as the system experiences a surplus of power due to peak production by solar and wind as well as continued supply from nuclear plants in France and Germany.
This occurred in June this year, when solar and wind accounted for 60 per cent of power generation on a slow weekend, yet nuclear power from France and Belgium could not be dialed down. Generators were forced to pay customers to take on board this surplus power over a period of several hours.
On the flip side, however, when the weather is inclement and solar and wind facilities are deprived of either bright sunshine or strong air currents, Germany faces the prospect of insufficient power supply, occasioning the risk blackouts.
Disturbances in Germany’s energy system can also spill over to affect the country’s neighbours, with Poland and the Czech Republic also suffering from grid overloads as a result of power surges to the West.
According to observers, the best solution is a single, over-arcing plan for the Eurozone’s energy needs, which will produce better deployment and coordination of the region’s power generating facilities as a whole.
This would mean installing renewable energy facilities in places which can best harvest energy – Spain and Greece for solar power, for example – and better integration between individual nations in order to even out the peaks and troughs in supply.