Germany's Renewable Energy Surplus Had People Getting Paid To Use Electricity

At 11 a.m. on Sunday, renewable energy was powering almost all of Germany's energy grid.

For a brief moment on Sunday, roughly 90 percent of Germany's power was being supplied by renewable resources — wind, solar, hydro, and biomass plants.

Germany, which has the fourth-largest economy in the world, saw 55 GW (gigawatts) of energy come from renewables around 11 a.m. on Sunday while the country consumed 63 GW of energy. 

As QZ reported, power prices actually went negative for a few hours, meaning consumers were actually being paid to use electricity. 

"We have a greater share of renewable energy every year," Christoph Podewils Agora Energiewende, a German clean energy think tank, told QZ. "The power system adapted to this quite nicely. This day shows again that a system with large amounts of renewable energy works fine."

The news is a big punch back against critics who think renewable energy has too erratic of an output to maintain a large country's energy grids. As ThinkProgress reported, Germany sees about the same amount of sunlight as Alaska — making it an unlikely but encouraging country to be producing so much energy through solar.

Germany plans to be using 100 percent renewable energy by 2050, and they're not the only ones going green in Europe. Neighboring countries like Denmark have wind turbines that already produce so much energy they send the surplus to places like Norway and Sweden.

All this comes at a time when Al Gore, the face of the climate change and renewable energy push in the United States, is becoming more and more optimistic about the future. In a recent TED Radio Hour podcast, the former vice president said that 90 percent of all the new electricity generation installed worldwide last year came from solar and wind, two of the most common renewables.

"That's surprising to people," Gore said. "It's not as if nothing bad has happened or will happen but the most extreme forms of damage that can threaten the end of our civilization as we know it can be controlled, and can be dealt with."

Cover photo: Jeff J Mitchell / Staff