On Sunday 11 May 2014, Germany’s impressive streak of renewable energy milestones continued, with renewable energy generation surging to a new record — nearly 75 percent — of the country’s overall energy demand by midday. With wind and solar in particular filling such a huge portion of the country’s power demand, electricity prices actually dipped into the negative for much of the afternoon, according to Renewables International.
In the first quarter of 2014, renewable energy sources met a record 27 percent of the country’s electricity demand, thanks to additional installations and favorable weather. “Renewable generators produced 40.2 billion kilowatt-hours of electricity, up from 35.7 billion kilowatt-hours in the same period last year,” Bloomberg reported. Much of the country’s renewable energy growth has occurred in the past decade and, as a point of comparison, Germany’s 27 percent is double the approximately 13 percent of U.S. electricity supply powered by renewables as of November 2013.
Observers say the records will keep coming as Germany continues its Energiewende, or energy transformation, which aims to power the country almost entirely on renewable sources by 2050.
“Once again, it was demonstrated that a modern electricity system such as the German one can already accept large penetration rates of variable but predictable renewable energy sources such as wind and solar PV power,” said Bernard Chabot, a renewable energy consultant based in France. “In fact there are no technical and economic obstacles to go first to 20 percent of annual electricity demand penetration rate from a combination of those two technologies, then 50 percent and beyond by combining them with other renewables and energy efficiency measures and some progressive storage solutions at a modest level.”
To reach the lofty goal of 80 percent renewables by 2050, Germany had to move quickly. Despite being known for gray skies, the country has installed an astonishing amount of solar photovoltaic (PV) power — setting multiple solar power generation records along the way. At the end of 2012, Germany had installed considerably more solar power capacity per capita than any other country. The rapid growth has slowed, however, with 3.3 GW of PV installed in 2013, compared to 7.6 in 2012. And as countries like the U.S., Japan and China catch up, installations have continued to drop in 2014.
Regardless, a recent analysis by the consulting firm Eclareon found that solar power has reached grid parity in Germany, meaning once all of the costs are accounted for, the price of commercial solar power is now equal to retail electricity rates.
And wind power reached record output levels last year — producing a massive 25.2 GW and accounting for 39 percent of the electricity supply on a single day in December.