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Simon

Power prices go negative in Germany thanks to renewable energy

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Simon

Here's an interesting article on how renewable energy can cause power prices to go negative: Power Prices Go Negative in Germany, a Positive for Energy Users. This story also reveals how our energy grids and battery technology is lagging behind the explosive growth of renewables in recent years.

Thanks to low demand coupled with unseasonably warm weather and strong breezes over the weekend, wind power in Germany produced so much electricity that power prices dropped below zero "for much of Sunday and the early hours of Christmas Day".

Ordinary consumers like you and me never experienced this price dip, but it's not the first example (and far from the last) of negative power prices in energy markets that have invested heavily in cleaner and renewable sources of electricity. These negative power prices show how our technology and our power grids have not yet been able to adapt to the increasing amounts of renewable energy being produced. Mainly it's our battery and distribution technologies that are lagging behind:

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For now, technological improvements that would help store additional power, and better distribute it across and between countries, are lagging.

[...] Battery storage capacity, meanwhile, is not yet advanced enough to take in all of the excess generation. And because older power plants that run on fossil fuels take a long time to ramp up and reduce electricity generation, they are not able to respond decisively enough to the shifting supply.

But while we wait for further advancements in battery capacity and investments into smarter and better energy grids, we can still do a lot to mitigate these uneven effects:

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But regulatory tweaks could make a difference. Germany, for example, does not do enough to encourage customers to increase their use at times of oversupply.

On a basic level, that could be as simple as providing incentives for people to turn on the washing machine when power is plentiful, and cheap. Companies could make even more use of such guidance, ramping up energy-hungry tasks at times of low-cost electricity.

It's also worth pointing out, I think, that renewable energy is a decentralized energy source and doesn't work like older, larger and more centralized forms of energy. Renewable energy requires a different approach, where the consumers are also the producers of the power generated.

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