Paying your electric bill is a fundamental aspect of survival and independence in the modern world—you might not like it, but it’s a part of life, no matter where you live. Now imagine, for a few hours somewhere in the world, people were actually being paid by power companies to consume electricity. How is this possible? Aren’t power companies of all kinds looking to collect on every iota of power people use on an everyday basis? In today’s post, we are going to explore Germany’s approach to solar energy production and how the residents and leaders of this European country are helping to pave the way for a world that takes advantage of solar energy on a massive scale.
Not when supply is greater than demand. In this blog, the solar panel experts at RGS Energy will give you a look into the state of Germany’s solar and renewable energy infrastructure, and help you understand its significance as an example for how countries can (and perhaps should) approach more sustainable forms of energy.
The German Renewable Energy Sources Act
Germany has always been a thought leader and innovator when it comes to renewable energy—and the proof comes from the turn of the millennium. On April 1st, 2000, Germany’s government signed a series of laws called the German Renewable Energy Sources Act (EEG), a feed-in tariff provision that encouraged public and private energy companies to generate more renewable electricity. The EEG has been revised many times over the years to better suit the modern times and the needs of power companies, and the results have been staggering—less than two decades later, and Germany is a world leader in renewable energy.
Too Much Renewable Energy
May 2016 was strangely historic for Germany. As the third-largest producer of solar energy on the planet (generating more solar power than the United States) and the sixth-largest in overall renewable energy production, Germany is no stranger to producing large amounts of renewable energy—and on May 8th, 2016—a surprisingly sunny and windy day across the country—they set a national record for renewable energy production. Over 87 percent of the nation’s power was being supplied by renewable energy sources that day—and for a few hours, power prices actually dipped into the negatives, meaning people were being paid to consume electricity.
Too much power and not enough consumption—what’s a country’s solar industry to do? Follow the lead of other European countries, according to renewable energy experts. Denmark often exports its excess power from its highly effective wind farms to surrounding countries and helps other countries in the event of nationwide power outages. As a cultural and economic hub with so much solar energy production, Germany has the opportunity to do the same, putting all the power they generate to good use.
Germany’s Energy Battle with China
Despite having rapid growth and public support for solar power, German solar companies face plenty of competition in the solar landscape that can stunt their short- and long-term growth. With growing production and low costs coming from Chinese solar world leaders, Germany is having trouble lowering their costs and increasing their production in order to stay relevant.
However, clean energy in Germany is certainly placing a lot of pressure on traditional energy providers. With solar power production in Germany tripling in the past decade, those in the fossil fuel industry are having difficulties lowering their costs to competitive levels and keeping themselves viable in a country that doesn’t exactly support traditional energy as much as it used to.
The Future of Germany’s Solar Power
Solar power has played, and will continue to play, a huge role in power generation in Germany. The solar industry generates 6.9 percent (37.5 TWh) of the nation’s total electricity—and while growth in the solar industry has slowed dramatically since 2012, there’s still progress to be a made in terms of solar development.