Germans were surprised to find their electricity bills falling to negative values for several hours on Sunday, April 30, as a result of renewable energy from wind, solar, biomass and hydro power providing 85% of the country’s total energy. Germany has been investing heavily in renewable energy as part of the government’s Energiewende (“energy transition”) initiative to move away from fossil fuels and nuclear power to a low carbon, environmentally-friendly, reliable, and affordable energy supply by 2050.

Germany is currently working on shutting down all its nuclear power plants by 2022 and nearly eliminating fossil fuel power. Coal-fired power stations were only operational between 3 and 4 PM last Sunday afternoon and produced less than eight gigawatts of energy, recording their lowest electric output over the course of one hour in recent history.


Solar panels on the roof of the Federal Press Office in Berlin
Photo by Bundesregierung/Stutterheim.

“Nuclear power sources, which are planned to be completely phased out by 2022, were also severely reduced. Most of Germany’s coal-fired power stations were not even operating on Sunday, with renewable sources accounting for 85% of electricity across the country,” says Patrick Graichen of Agora Energiewende Initiative. He adds that Germany will experience days like Sunday very often by 2030, as the federal government’s Energiewende initiative continues to add value to the wealth of resources invested in it.

Several weeks ago, California also drove its wholesale electricity prices to zero, and sometimes negative, at certain hours of the day – a result of the coastal state’s 15 years of work on transitioning to solar energy. California witnessed the peak for the first time on March 11, when more than half of the power needs of the entire city came from solar power for a few hours. The California Independent System Operator (CAISO) accounted for almost 40% of net grid power produced during the hours between 11 AM to 2 PM. This was the first time CAISO has achieved these levels, reflecting an almost 50% growth in utility-scale solar photovoltaic installed capacity in 2016.