Germany’s Volatile Power Grid Spinning Dangerously Out Of Control …Prices Go Negative 25 Times In 2015!

The more volatile supply wind and solar energy that comes online in Germany, the more insane the market prices become. Too often the wind blows and the sun shines when power is unneeded, or they are simply AWOL when demand is high like in the wintertime.

Winbd sun May 2016

Germany’s wildly fluctuating wind and solar energy are creating grid and market havoc. Source: Agora.

Earlier this month Germany saw a spate of both sunny, windy days, thus leading to huge power grid surges during the Ascension holiday weekend, a time when many factories were running close to idled (see chart above).

Despite billions annually in subsidies, wind and sun still puny

And for a few minutes last Pentecost Monday afternoon – a holiday that saw very low national electricity demand – wind and solar provided almost enough power to cover all of the country’s electricity needs, reported Die Welt here. Leading Greens cheered, and proclaimed that coal and nuclear had not been needed for a time. But they cheered “too early” writes Die Welt’s business journalist , pointing out that market and technical conditions became dangerously precarious and that in total “electricity represents only 21% of Germany’s total energy need.”

While Germany’s installed solar and wind energy may be able to get fairly close to fulfilling total electricity demand for a few minutes in rare instances that weather and demand conditions are just right, their share of total primary energy is still depressingly measly. Die Welt puts it all in true perspective:

Despite billions in subsidies, ‘renewable energies’ wind and sun covered only 3.7% of Germany’s primary energy needs last year.”

Negative wholesale prices becoming rampant

Another debilitating feature of the weather-dependent renewable energies are the havoc they create on the electricity exchanges. Last week’s power grid overloading by wind and sun led to deep negative wholesale prices.

Spiegel here writes that the wholesale power price plummeted to -130 euros per megawatt (see blue curve in the right chart)! Literally, foreign consumers were being paid to take the power. (The black curve shows total German demand).

Moreover the phenomenon of negative wholesale prices (i.e. excessive power feeding uncontrollably into the grid) occurred a record 25 times in 2015, Spiegel writes. That was 4 times more often than in 2011.

Among the highest electricity prices in the world

With wholesale electricity prices dipping into negative territory, one might think that power must be very cheap for the consumer. Unfortunately this is not the case. At negative prices power companies lose money, and so are then forced to pass along these extra costs along to the end consumers. German consumers are paying close to €0.30 for each kilowatt-hour they consume – among the highest in the world.

The situation has gotten so alarming that leading politicians of Chancellor Angela Merkel’s CDU conservative party are now demanding an end to subsidies for new wind and solar installations.

Denmark slams brakes on wind projects

Not only Germany is struggling with wildly fluctuating grid and market conditions, which are leading to massive costs and pain for consumers, but so is Denmark. Die Welt writes:

The situation has also led wind energy leader Denmark to a rethinking. Press reports say that Energy Minister Lars Christian Lilleholt has stopped the planned construction of five large offshore wind farms in order to protect consumers from large cost increases.”

 

50 responses to “Germany’s Volatile Power Grid Spinning Dangerously Out Of Control …Prices Go Negative 25 Times In 2015!”

  1. Robert Doyle

    Bloomberg reports California and Texas have experienced similar negative pricing days as well.

    http://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2016-04-05/one-thing-california-texas-have-in-common-is-negative-power

    1. Analitik

      It happens in South Australia too – the greenwash continue to trumpet it as a sign of success
      http://cleantechnica.com/2014/10/23/negative-electricity-prices-middle-of-day-south-australia-renewables/

  2. Doug Proctor

    The additional energy costs of having 3.7% non-fossil, non-nuclear is symbolic, of course, and principally value-signalling (as opposed to supportive of developing trends). We do stuff like this all the time. But since social values rather than pragmatic, economic ones are involved, the question is how much money and effort we are willing to put into it.

    The deep idealists don’t want the costs to be known, as they understand that our willingness to put our money where our mouths are is not great – witness the Austalian surveys on that subject. Eventually the costs become known and there is pushback. The idealists win if the costs are hard wired into the system.

    It’s weird that all the subsidies that do NOT go to better, economic technological advancements as proposed do not bother the committed Eco-green. But not weird if you think that – like taxes on tobacco and alcohol – the extra cost of renewables when they do not create a solution to the CO2 “problem” is NOT about fixing the CO2 problem – as tobacco and alcohol taxes haven’t done, either. Carbon subsidies and taxes are social “sin” taxes.

    Humanity is a sinful beast and those participating need to be punished. Subsidies and taxes are the punishment. Nothing changes, but the righteous feel better. Prohibition in the US lead to mass methanol poisoning as industrial wood alcohol was cheaper to put in booze-like drinks than making actual ethanol-based booze. The Prohibitionists didn’t care. Only the sinful were harmed, they said, and just paying for their sins. It seems that energy use fills the need to find “sin” in the modern Man that tobacco and alcohol used to supply.

    1. DirkH

      Voters are emotion-driven since women dominate the electorate – and in the case of Germany, the leadership as well.

      That’s why the West does irrational policies. People like Musk and other subsidy cronies exploit this by promising shiny toys. We see that Musk cars are useless. The female voters don’t.

      1. Analitik

        Tesla will fold very, very soon. The negotiations with LG and Samsung for batteries means “The GigaFactory” is dead since that was supposed to provide the miracle breakthough in pricing for the Model 3.
        http://www.leftlanenews.com/tesla-to-source-model-3-batteries-from-lg-samsung-91820.html

        The deposits put down by the faithful for the unfinalised prototype is chump change compared to the money Tesla burns with each year of operation.

        1. DirkH

          Yeah, but Musk will have made out like a bandit.
          Musk doesn’t sell cars. That’s not his business model. He PROMISES cars.
          He invests a million into politicians and reaps a billion – by selling shares to believers.

          He *IS* a pure capitalist. Supply & demand: He markets shares that he prints and sells.

          BTW this is also a sustainable business: It does not consume resources and does not pollute.

          1. Analitik

            Tesla, in fact, epitomizes “The 3rd Way”

            It’s all a monumental ponzi scheme based on taxpayers subsidizing green, emergent technologies that can never be profitable or even useful for the stated purposes. And the subsidies themselves come from industries overwhelmingly reliant on fossil fuels which are generating real wealth and products.

      2. mwhite

        “subsidy cronies” – subsidy junkies

    2. Mindert Eiting

      Sin taxes? Historians say that when a government begins to levy tax on a product, it got a broad acceptance in the population. We have had tax on salt, coffee, tea, tobacco, and more recently parking. It makes no sense to levy tax on sins only a few people commit. The quantity aspect makes that governments have to talk with two mouths, that they want as much sinners as possible and that we should not sin (of course).

  3. DirkH

    “But they cheered “too early” writes Die Welt’s business journalist Daniel Wetzel, pointing out that market and technical conditions became dangerously precarious and that in total “electricity represents only 21% of Germany’s total energy need.””

    Lügenpresse has accidentally allowed someone with a brain near the keyboard.
    We expect this fatal mistake to be corrected in no time.

    1. yonason

      “We expect this fatal mistake to be corrected in no time.” – DirkH

      Alternatively he’s a token skeptic used to increase circulation, but not representative of management ideology.

  4. Roger

    perhaps the excess power could be used to pump water up into hydro dam reservoirs?

    Cheers

    Roger

  5. Billy

    Spiegel here writes that the wholesale power price plummeted to -130 euros per megawatt –

    Surely this should be megawatt-hours. Price per mw is meaningless.

  6. yonason

    Since 1980 net annual electricity generation has more than doubled. But while “renewable” energy component has also about doubled, it remains at around 20% of the total.
    https://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/thumb/d/df/Annual_electricity_net_generation_in_the_world.svg/2000px-Annual_electricity_net_generation_in_the_world.svg.png

    It would seem that whoever thinks “renewables” can completely fill the need are not just dreaming, they are hallucinating.

    ASIDE: With the damage done to birds by wind farms,
    http://www.c3headlines.com/2016/05/inconvenient-science-study-of-wind-farm-impact-on-eu-protected-species-determines-80-reduction-extinction-breeding.html
    Putting up more of those bird shredders will only make the problem worse.

    DDT was banned for a lot less.

  7. sod

    I admit, i was one of those who was watching this closely and i also fell for the “100%” data, which later was corrected.

    But to put this data in perspective, we need to know a few things.

    neither demand nor output is fixed. both react to situations.

    this can best be seen on the 8th of May this year (another sunday):

    https://www.agora-energiewende.de/de/themen/-agothem-/Produkt/produkt/76/Agorameter/
    (change start and end date to 8th may 2016, the click on “zeitraum darstellen”)

    wind output is peaking EXACTLY with output in demand. This either is a extreme coincidence or a sign of curtailment of wind.

    We also do not know, by how much the expectation of low prices increased demand on the weekends discussed here.

    1. DirkH

      “wind output is peaking EXACTLY with output in demand. This either is a extreme coincidence or a sign of curtailment of wind. ”

      And the best part for the Green leeches is: When they do have to throttle the output to prevent grid overload THEY STILL GET PAID FOR WHAT THEY DIDN’T PRODUCE!!!!

      I didn’t expect German politicians to be THAT corrupt! They really all live in the pocket of the Green cronies.

  8. Tmitsss

    Evidence that wholesale electricity prices are negative when demand is low and the sun is shining on a windy day proves that wind and solar electricity is always worthless, but the worthlessness only become visible on such days

  9. sod

    Portugal just ran 107 hours on renewables. It also seems to be approaching above 50% renewables over the years now.

    http://www.csmonitor.com/Environment/2016/0517/How-Portugal-went-107-hours-on-only-renewable-energy-video

    the world is changing. Do not get left behind.

    1. Analitik

      Any figures as to how much they spent “investing” in wind turbines, solar PV panels and hydro?

      What if we’re happy to be left to the good graces of fossil fuel and nuclear power?

      1. sod

        “Any figures as to how much they spent “investing” in wind turbines, solar PV panels and hydro?”

        No, but there electricity prices seem rather normal, in comparison with the rest of europe.

        http://ec.europa.eu/eurostat/statistics-explained/index.php/File:Half-yearly_electricity_and_gas_prices,_second_half_of_year,_2012%E2%80%9314_%28EUR_per_kWh%29_YB15.png

        It is also clear, that they used to import oil to generate electricity, not so far ago:

        http://euanmearns.com/portugal-renewables-to-the-rescue/

        And they have not gone deep into solar so far, so expect the renewable percentage to rise in the near future, at next to no cost (benefitting of the small prices of solar PV these days).

        “What if we’re happy to be left to the good graces of fossil fuel and nuclear power?”

        You can of course do that. But then you will see that your neighbour countries will constantly offer you cheap electricity, while your country is paying the utterly insane Hinkley nuclear plant price (in the long run, all those nuclear plants and old coal plants have to be replaced with new versions, and that is simply not going to happen).

        The people in your country will be mighty pissed off, paying a premium to pollute the country.

        1. Analitik

          Cheap renewable energy is a fallacy even discounting the massive upfront capital investment. Operating costs for solar PV and wind farms are higher down here than for coal plants.

          We’ve been polluting our country for decades without effect – it’s minimal vs the footprint for solar PV and wind farms not to mention dams.

          Were you brainwashed by exposure to Hermann Scheer as a (younger) child?

          1. yonason

            Portugal gets about 30% of it’s energy from hydro, which is probably the only viable “renewable” energy. It was also the first source of electric power in the US. It has a long and respectable history, so including the wind and solar scams with it to give them credibility as “renewables” is just a perversion of history and common sense.

          2. sod

            “Portugal gets about 30% of it’s energy from hydro, which is probably the only viable “renewable” energy. ”

            No, it is not. But hydro is very good at supporting solar PV and wind. That is the reason, why Portugal now could go to 100% renewables for a few days.

            And it is also the reason, why Portugal now has less reliance on expensive Diesel bought abroad.

          3. yonason

            Poor sod. He doesn’t bother to check anything, but credulously accepts and uncritically devours whatever greenie propaganda is set before him, which he then proceeds to joyfully spew wherever he can.

            Sadly, everything sod knows about climate and the foolish attempts to “fix” it is wrong.

            http://euanmearns.com/did-portugal-run-for-four-days-on-renewables-alone/
            “…to claim that a spell of bad weather in Portugal represents an achievement for renewable energy is nonsense.”

          4. yonason

            “…hydro is very good at supporting solar PV and wind.” – sod the credulous

            That’s like saying Humphrey Bogart playing Rick in Casablanca was a good supporting role for the nameless extras in the night-club scenes.

    2. sod

      Energy Matters has a good sum up of the record in Portugal, including data for all of May. Please look at the rest of the month, it is utterly impressive!

      http://euanmearns.com/did-portugal-run-for-four-days-on-renewables-alone/

      1. Analitik

        Why don’t you mention the El Hierro update? Loads of diesel action running that grid, now.

        1. sod

          There are seriously problems on El Hierro. They cap wind at 60% (never more than about 7 MW output from about a 11.5 MW system) and they do not use hydro AT ALL.

          They are now trying to bring hydro in (or draining the upper reservoir, because it has a hole?) as you can see here:

          http://euanmearns.com/el-hierro-a-change-in-operating-procedures/

          In the long run, numbers are bad, but for a system that is used in an utterly absurd way, they still get about 50% in some months:

          http://euanmearns.com/el-hierro-marchapril-2016-update/

          So let us wait when they fix the system (and add a little solar PV and batteries).

          75% most of the time and 100% for some time should be rather easy to achieve around 2020.

          1. Analitik

            As always, it’s always “will”, “when” with renewables. Never an acceptance of it is what it is – a marginally useful and economically questionable addition to traditional power engineering.

          2. sod

            “As always, it’s always “will”, “when” with renewables. Never an acceptance of it is what it is”

            I am rather fine, with what “is” in Portugal.

            I am not happy with what “is” on El Hierro.

            Portugal did not make a lot of fuss and casually is hitting 100% and some drastic changes to diesel use for electricity.

            El Hierro made a lot of fuss, and is seriously underachieving. We do not know the real cause (i still assume that the system is abused mostly to provide water for irrigation, not to produce electricity. But we can easily see the two main problems: 1. wind power is curtailed significantly. 2. water power is not used (basically) at all so far.

          3. DirkH

            “I am rather fine, with what “is” in Portugal.
            I am not happy with what “is” on El Hierro.
            Portugal did not make a lot of fuss and casually is hitting 100% and some drastic changes to diesel use for electricity. ”

            I wouldn’t be fine with what *IS* in Portugal because the country is a bankrupt basketcase. Does this have anything to do with subsidizing idiotic energy contraptions? I sure think so.

    3. Analitik

      Just found this on Energy Matters – the price of electricity in Portugal is pretty high. How much of that is due to the capital and operating costs of their renewable generators? The hydro stuff is probably pulling its weight – wind and solar would require more investigation (as always)

      http://euanmearns.com/did-portugal-run-for-four-days-on-renewables-alone/#comment-19675

  10. Tmitsss

    “Despite massive subsidies” should actually read “as a result of massive subsidies”

  11. stan stendera

    Ivanpah, the world’s largest solar subsidy farm has caught on fire and is shut down.

  12. sod

    South Australia also hit 100% renewables for some hours and has achieved above 50% renewables lately:

    http://www.independent.co.uk/news/world/australasia/south-australia-runs-entirely-renewable-energy-following-coal-plant-closure-a7037646.html

    1. Analitik

      Yeah, and then there were hours where the renewables contribution was 10% of nameplate capacity. Guess what filled the void – gas and coal (mainly lignite).

      That article is so full of errors it’s not funny.
      – Most of SA’s gas capacity is in 8 steam boiler generators and much of the rest is OCGT – not “energy efficient combined cycle gas plants.”
      – peak demand in SA is during the summer, not “the dark evenings of winter”
      – the closure of the Northern coal plant did not result in “brief faltering in wholesale energy prices” but vastly increased volatility in the wholesale electricity spot market
      – the battery trial to “defer a $3 million network upgrade” is a desparate bid to support the grid vs intermittency from wind and solar PV
      – the “in-built network constraints and outdated systems” are the normal distribution grid which was never intended to support intermittency from wind and solar PV because sensible dispatchable generation was assumed

      The article is entirely based on the ravings of the editor of RenewEconomy – a dedicated spruiker of renewables wit vested interests – yet it overstates even the wild claims from that site.
      http://reneweconomy.com.au/2016/south-australia-graphs-60608

      1. sod

        “The article is entirely based on the ravings of the editor of RenewEconomy –”

        i am not allowed to link such sources. So i always use newspapers, which mostly do a bad job, in summing up the data.

        But the relevant point here is:

        Germany got to above 80%. Portugal ran on 100% for multiple days. South Australia is also achieving extreme high renewables.

        The world is changing.

        “peak demand in SA is during the summer, not “the dark evenings of winter””

        That is very good for PV solar. This graph shows the effect:

        https://62e528761d0685343e1c-f3d1b99a743ffa4142d9d7f1978d9686.ssl.cf2.rackcdn.com/files/20949/area14mp/tk2jnh3x-1362451326.jpg

        1. AndyG55

          And TOTALLY reliant on back-up from Victoria’s BROWN COAL power stations.

          If they shut those down, SA will have rolling black-out after rolling blackout.

          1. sod

            “If they shut those down, SA will have rolling black-out after rolling blackout.”

            No. If they shut down, SA would have some different form of backup. Gas, most likely.

          2. Analitik

            Gas, eh? Like this?
            http://www.financialmail.co.za/coverstory/2015/01/29/open-gas-cycle-turbines-between-a-rock-and-a-hard-place

            This what happens when you try to substitute renewables for proper dispatchable generation. In Eskom’s case, they decided to install wind farms rather than invest in more coal or nuclear plants as demand grew and now they are bankrupting themselves, trying to cope with the intermittency issue.

            “easily be closed with a little storage” – my ar$e

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  14. sod

    Costa Rica has run on 99% renewables in 2015 again.

    http://news.nationalgeographic.com/energy/2016/05/portugal-100-percent-renewable-energy-wind-solar-hydroelectric/

    The world in changing. And of course, the places with lots of hydro achieve 100% over long periods first.

    1. Analitik

      Large hydro underpins all those countries, islands or states that have been able to run for more than minutes at “100% renewables”. Hydro provides dispatchable generation AND storage, without which wind and solar are useless at the utility level.

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  16. sod

    Let us just look at the month of May:

    https://www.agora-energiewende.de/de/themen/-agothem-/Produkt/produkt/76/Agorameter/
    (just switch to “last 31 days” for the moment)

    renewables have pretty constant output of 20GW, with gaps that are basically not bigger than half a day and basically never drop below 10 GW. so we need about 100GWh of storage.

    El Hierro as about 270 MWh of storage (or 0.3 GWh), so about 400 such lakes would do.

    http://euanmearns.com/el-hierro-renewable-energy-project-september-2015-performance-review/

    or about 10 Million 10kWh home batteries.

    This would transform renewables (for the month of May) into a flat 20GW “baseload” output. AND would have a massive stability effect.

    the future is approaching. just wait and see.

    The percentage of new solar PV including storage was 13% even before Tesla made big news and started to drive down prices.

    http://www.energiezukunft.eu/solar/photovoltaik/batteriespeicher-in-deutschland-gn103567/

    I did not know that. did you?