On Sunday, May 8, sun and wind energy was so bountiful in Germany, that the utility had to pay people to use it all up. Due to weather conditions that day, the combined spike caused renewable to make up 87% of the country’s total energy consumption, if only briefly.
"This day shows again that a system with large amounts of renewable energy works fine." Christoph Podewils of the think tank Agora Energiewende told Quartz.
The result was that Germany’s power energy prices were actually negative for a few hours that Sunday, so if you weren’t out windsurfing on a lake, or working on your tan, then you could have been paid for the electricity you used.
Agora tracks energy production and usage in Germany, and you can explore custom charts that visualize the power generated and consumed over any time period. Overall, Germany produces around a third of its electricity from renewables, with wind energy seeing the biggest growth recently. In 2015, Agora reports that wind power production rose 50% from the previous year.
Germany is also the European Union’s biggest user of coal, and coal use is still rising along with renewables, mostly because coal is replacing natural gas as a power source.
Like other European countries, Germany exports its excess electricity, and imports it when there generation falls below the country’s requirements. The chart shows the numbers for Sunday May 8. You can see the spike in production at around midday, with a corresponding dip in price at 2 p.m.
In terms of renewables mix, though, Germany still has a way to go to beat Denmark, which is on track to get half its power from wind turbines, and even ran for a whole day last September without any of its regular power stations being in operation.
Which is to say, renewables are not only the future of power generation, they’re also its present. All across Europe, solar and wind are contributing huge percentages to the grid. This makes the short-sighted actions of Spain, the U.K., and Poland, which are variously trying to curtail renewables by withdrawing subsidies or wrapping them in red tape, seem all the more pathetic.