Germany’s Solar Expansion And The Negative Effects Of Electricity Overproduction

Amidst the push for more low-carbon energy, we see the demolishing of one of the pillars of electric grids: that of a careful balancing between supply and demand. This is not just a short-term affair. It also affects the construction of new power plants, investments in transmission capacity, and so on. The problem with having too much capacity is that it effectively destroys the electricity market, as suppliers need to make a profit to sustain and build generators and invest in transmission capacity. This is now the problem that Germany finds itself struggling with due to an overcapacity of variable renewable power sources (VRE) like solar and wind.

With a glut of overcapacity during windy and sunny days, this leads to prices going to zero or even negative. While this may sound positive (pun intended), it means that producers are not being paid. Worse, it means that when, for example, France buys German wind power for negative Euros via the European Electricity Exchange (EEX), it means that Germany actually pays France, instead of vice versa. The highly variable output of wind and solar also means a big increase in curtailment and redispatch measures to keep the grid stable, all of which costs money and drives up operating costs.

One suggested solution is to add more transmission capacity and more grid-level storage, but these scale poorly and are an economically dubious solution. Germany could also curtail its solar and wind generators, something which it currently avoids. Meanwhile, countries like Finland and France also integrate significant VREs on their grids, but with a strong base of hydropower and nuclear plants (both of which can load follow), which significantly reduces operating costs. Ultimately, some safe level of VRE grid integration will likely be found, alongside hydro and nuclear powerplants, including some with strong load-following capabilities like TerraPower’s Natrium. As we’ve mentioned before, this isn’t just a European problem.

181 thoughts on “Germany’s Solar Expansion And The Negative Effects Of Electricity Overproduction

      1. Aluminium smelters aren’t exactly “supply following” because they operate by passing current through huge vats of molten alumina. The over-supply spikes are far enough in between that you’d spend most of the time wasting energy just to keep the liquid alumina hot. You just can’t let it solidify or you’d end up with a mass of non-conductive rock that you’d have to dynamite out of the reactor.

        That’s why aluminium production is only economical in places with steady supply of cheap electricity.

    1. ding ding! this is the way. developing energy storage like elevated reservoirs that water can be pumped into during the day, and used for hydro electric energy recovery when needed, carbon collection will need a f$$k ton of energy long term.

      Like really this article and the Business Insider one it refers to seems suggest that excess energy is a bad thing. we need all the energy we can sustainably get and more if we are going to unfuck this planet. Business f$$ks and politicians can’t see past the next quarter report or election, and are either ill-equipped, or punished for applying wisdom or mid-long term problem solving.

      like AI and the paperclip problem, humanities economic system has a blind spot for long term planning and indirect solutions. This so called ‘disaster’ of the energy industry is the first happy news story I’ve heard in a long time.

      1. It’s not that simple. Large operators are the ones that keep the grid working. It’s a massively expensive investment to build a powerplant, and nobody will install one “for the kindness of their hearts” but to have a financial return. The payout time for a power plant is several decades, not few years, and the price tag is exorbitant. No company would bury several billions on the ground to be repaid in 30-40 years if there’s a large risk they will not be paid at all. No expected payment, no new power plants.

        Large operators have a service contract where they are required to provide the allotted power for a certain duration. If they just disconnect the generators because they want so, they are fined. When solar or wind power winds down, they are required to provide the power.

        Distributors are required to maintain the grid infrastructure, you know, those very large power pylons crossing the country. They are paid a fraction of the power cost. If the cost is negative, they are not paid, they have less money to repair the grid and less incentive to invest on new tech to minimize losses or fix bottlenecks. Why bother creating another 100km of transmission lines if I am not being paid for the current ones?

        Excess energy is a bad thing. Power plants are running but not being paid. Operators of those power plants will not look forward to create new plants if they aren’t being paid. Winter comes, little sunlight, light winds, and the grid is on the dark because renewables killed the profitability bellow maintenance levels and operators left the market.

        Pumped hydro is a great idea, but it’s not possible to build a mountain and a lake on top of it. There are limited places on Earth where that is possible. The Netherlands are not one of them, for instance. Same for hydroelectric power plants. Not every river and place can be used for it.

        While I agree wholeheartedly that politicians only care about next election, thinking this “disaster” is good news is, ironically, a sign of lack of long term vision.

          1. Yeah because the government is efficient and effective.

            Off the top of my head:
            – CA can’t account at all for 20 billion that was supposed to go to homelessness.
            – CA is 100+ billion off on the train to nowhere.
            – VA healthcare is both a water of money and ineffective.
            – Social Security is unsustainable and also doesn’t fulfill it’s original intentions.

            You should be very afraid when someone from the government “wants to help.”

          2. @sword corporations are famously poor at providing services because their goal is profit for shareholders which is often unrelated to providing good services, especially when there’s no room for competition.

            The point here is if you have vertical integration between producer, grid, storage and consumer there are some great opportunities for profit. Other folks have to pay for fuel but you’ve got so much of the stuff it’s free! You could set up energy intensive industries and run them for next to nothing! But you need that vertical integration plus certainty that you’ll exist and be funded in 20 years. Government has that potential, corporations rarely do.

          3. @CampGareth Please explain how an obligate monopolist not beholden to anybody (i.e. the state) (no, an advance auction on stolen goods, or so-called “election”, is not a control mechanism) is so much better

          4. Guess who pushed the ‘Energiewende’ that lies at the root of the problem? Hint: its the same people who closed the nuclear power plants, which increased the use of lignite. Tax euros at work!

        1. >and nobody will install one “for the kindness of their hearts” but to have a financial return

          Which means in practice the tax payer usually ends up funding at least half of the construction to see no return… Much easier if you are going to spend a fortune as the government to just stop pretending having for profit companies full of greedy CEO and shareholder is actually a viable thing – time after time the shareholders make bank as the service is destroyed, so either they need oversight that costs a fortune to deny them any profit related payout unless the repairs and investment to keep the service functional are done, or just stop with the whole essential services being run for private profit and make any profits earned just another tax…

          >Excess energy is a bad thing. Power plants are running but not being paid.

          Doesn’t have to be true at all either – the current economic model isn’t working anyway – the one where governments prop up the suppliers frequently paying for the investments required and the rest of the time the shareholders and CEO take home multiple millions while the company invests the bare minimum required to avoid closer government oversight… (Look at the UK water companies as an example – the CEO and shareholders have made a fortune over recent decades of not investing nearly enough in the services and now want to double the water bill so the essential work that should already have been done can be started)

          So if for instance the users of electricity actually paid more inline with the current supply then so many industries and individuals would be shifting their demands to match the supply more – suddenly the energy isn’t so excess, and any minimum less problematic. As during the renewable peaks at cheaper rates all those industries that can ramp up production will – so the producers and grid still get paid and it averages out well for them. At that point you really can’t have enough ‘excess energy’ all the folks who produce stuff will happily use the ‘excess’ if they are not having to pay the same high rates they currently do, and the grid and suppliers are still getting paid…

        2. If a power station is required to sit on standby to meet load when renewable generation falls, they are paid. It’s referred to as reserve capacity and power plants bid to supply it, just like they bid to supply action power demand.

          It often means a gas or coal station sits idle, burning fuel to stay ready to supply power if needed.

        3. No it’s not, because having corporations own critical infrastructure is of course a bad idea, since they have different goals than the wellbeing of citizens.

          Any country who has not realized this show rectify this ASAP and make it state owned instead. If you don’t think you could afford it I have news for you, you are already paying for it so if anything, your cost will go down since you don’t need to also pay for profit.

          1. Having limited-liability corporations owning critical infrastructure is a bad idea, because none of the investors and owners are responsible for the failures of the venture. They’re generally only liable to the amount they’ve invested, while the corporations has a separate legal “personhood” and can go bankrupt with all the investors and CEOs keeping all the dividends and bonuses and profits they’ve made so far.

            Not all corporations are limited liability. It’s just that governments like to sell their assets to their own buddies in the private sphere piece by piece, which is how crucial industries eventually end up owned by some shell company in Vanuatu as they scoop the shares off the market.

      2. It’s not that simple.

        VREs are both too much and too little. The peaks are high and the valleys in between are low: the average production is typically only 1/5th or 1/8th of what you get out of the peaks, but the peaks represent about half of all the energy they produce, so it’s very difficult to meet the average demand with them.

        1. That’s why why you need base load power as well. Having a hydro dam or a nuclear reactor fills in troughs in renewables and means you need to use less land for panels to meet your peaks. I’ll bet that the problem is so bad in Germany specifically because they are shutting down reactors.

          1. “Base load” is that sort of generation which is cheap because it’s running at full throttle and making most of the investment.

            Everything else is load following to some degree, and more expensive to the extent that they do. For example, if a nuclear power has to throttle up and down to the point that they’re effectively operating at 50% capacity on average, the price of its power nearly doubles compared to if they were running 96% of the time. This is because the plant can’t extend its operation to twice as long to make up the difference and the investors want their money back sooner than later.

            Fundamentally, when VRE is forced onto the market, there must already be enough capacity to supply all the power for any demand with or without the VRE, which only means that the VRE producers are butting in and stealing the other producers’ market, and making less efficient use of the investment in those generators.

      3. I agree. They are shitting their pants over free energy, because they have to dump it somewhere? They also never talk about the fact that the input resources for solar and wind energy production are free and represent 0 cost, whereas coall, gas and uranium are expensive. So even if they make no profit on one end, they have significant cost savings at the other end. All it would really take to avoid the negative energy price problem is to establish a non-negotiable minimum price per gigawatthour for renewable.

        1. But what do you do when there is over supply? Which generators to you tell to shut down and stop paying?
          If you don’t, things will break when the grid voltage gets too high.

          That’s why the price goes negative. Power generators get paid to stop generating.

          The electricity market works, for the primary reason it exists, to manage supply and demand. The issue is with the business model of building power stations.
          Changing the electricity market to support the business model will compromise the grid stability.

          If the industry can’t sort itself out, the government needs to step in and provide incentives or subsidies to ensure the countries energy security

        2. >They also never talk about the fact that the input resources for solar and wind energy production are free and represent 0 cost

          Every turbine and panel costs money. The real cost of power is the amount they produce over their lifetime divided by the amount you paid for it all. There is no such thing as zero cost resource.

          When you don’t use a portion of the energy that the system _could_ otherwise produce, you’re simply making the portion that you do use more expensive. If you have a wind turbine, stopping it for over-production is simply throwing money in the wind.

      1. yeah all the storage systems are lossy and it might take a pretty fantastic scenario to financially justify the losses

        a fantastic scenario like negative spot prices

        1. When storage providers start buying the power, the price won’t be negative anymore because there is a demand for the supply.

          Fundamentally, the suppliers need to make money to continue operation. The situation of negative pricing is caused by subsidies, where the producers are paid anyways even if they give the excess power away for free. In that case, the people would be paying the storage companies out of taxes to take the electricity in and then selling it back to the people. How would that make any sense?

          1. Er… paying the supplier for the electricity out of taxes, so the storage companies could have it for free – but same difference. It would just be hiding the cost in the subsidy scheme to force unprofitable operation.

          2. i don’t understand any way it doesn’t make sense. at peak production times, the storage company is buying electricity relatively cheaply. at low production times, they are selling it relatively expensively. so long as the gap between ‘cheap’ and ‘expensive’ is bigger than the losses, they win.

            the fact that the price can go negative in the status quo ante proves that there is a gap, and a growing one at that. obviously you could build too much storage for a certain market, or variable supplies like gas turbines could eat up your profits. the details matter and there will need to be fine tuning and regulation. but the obvious demand is there, and is likely to grow in the future.

          3. >they win

            And the consumers lose. They would be paying for the electricity multiple times. First in taxes to pay the producer subsidies, then in the negative pricing and curtailing compensation which is passed on through regular power prices, and then they’d be paying the marked-up power from the battery operator when the VREs are low in supply, which is also baked into their monthly electricity bills.

            Of course you can artificially create policies and laws so that operating batteries is profitable on a large scale, but you wouldn’t want to live in that market.

          4. You have to compare it to a situation where no special policy or subsidy is provided, so the battery operators have to buy the power off the market at the going market rate.

            There wouldn’t be surplus power unless the battery operators could pay nearly the regular rate for power, which they can’t. The batteries are so expensive that they’re only profitable when selling to the peak power prices; paying normal rates for the input would push the output price so high that there’s simply no market for it.

            Which is why governments are forcing it to happen by subsidizing it and mandating it. It has nothing to do with making sense financially – they’ve just decided to force people to pay many times more for their electricity.

      2. long term hydrogen storage is lossy. if you only have to hold onto it for a few hours its not so bad. the thing that really kills it i think is that there are better chemical reactions that dont leak as much. i think you get ultra pure water out of fuel cells, so that could be marketed as a side product. but that’s probably not enough to offset the costs of low efficiency.

    2. I’ve looked at all of these options for the inevitable over- (and under-) supply that will occur as we increase renewables. All the storage options have problems – efficiency and cost. Arbitrage is just trading in the margins and hydrogen so lossy.

      I think the broadest solution is an economic battery. That is, use the energy to create value at the instant it is available.

      I co-founded a company to tackle this exact problem: it comprises large compute resources customised to rapidly turn on and off running only tasks that can be deferred or are “non time critical” (yes there are a lot of these tasks that are thoughtlessly run on big data centres powered by fossil fuels).

      Energy-flexible and modular compute is the most efficient conversion of a kWh to value, as there is no logistics costs of losses with chemical or gravity storage and conversion, can be done on a satellite connection and anywhere in the world. The load can be dropped instantly to stabilise the grid and ramped up almost as quickly to absorb excess energy.
      Our solution insulates generators from the negative prices, delivers huge amounts of energy back to the grid during peak demand hours and also provides green compute services.

      We’ve been running a 2MW example of this for two years now, at a hydro dam in New Zealand. It autonomously tracks grid demand and responds by shedding load during peak demand.
      It’s highly scalable to hundreds of megawatts, provides its own sustainable business model, increases energy asset utilisation, helping drive more renewable investments and delivery of renewable energy to the end consumer cheaper.

      The sooner the world wakes up to this solution the better.

        1. I would tend to think so. We could do something like folding@home where computers around the world are instructed to run extra loads when electricity becomes negative in value. All that’s needed is a change in regulations.
          Ai has opened up a lot of ways to use processing power without needing programmers to oversee everything. For instance, think about computer bugs, you could have an ai program that fuzzes an important program in an emulator such as the linux kernel, or that buggy toyota car ecu that tended to accelerate randomly and drive over bystanders.
          I think the world would be a better place without as many computer bugs.

      1. The problem I see is that computers depreciate and become irrelevant at nearly the same speed whether they are running or not. However there is definitely a solid place for this technology!

        My office frequently gets people walking in requesting a connection to the grid in the MW to GW ranges for computer load. Many are poorly researched to the point of being laughable. Some get built. At this point though they but their own power at wholesale and pay a per MWh wheeling fee to deliver their power. They also pay to help us build out infrastructure to keep our grid solid. When they frequently go out of business, much of that infrastructure stays, but their load drops. Our local power grid is exceptionally well built out and continues to improve.

        Hydrogen can be lossy, but it is generated when power prices are low to negative so maybe that’s not as much of a problem. It can also be converted in nearly real time to other less lossy commodities like ammonia.

        1. At least the pace at which computers become irrelevant is lower than it used to be, if electrical cost is not a factor and you’re willing to use them until they die. And there is some ability to tune for your optimum between power consumption, performance, and longevity.

      2. I really appreciate your creative idea.

        A quick search reveals the following examples of tasks:
        – Analyzing radio signals from space to search for signs of extraterrestrial life. The signals have been in transit for years, so a delay in analysis is often acceptable.
        – Modeling ancient climate conditions based on geological data.
        – Analyzing data from old surveys or censuses for sociological research.
        – Analyzing archived data from past astronomical observations to discover new insights.
        – Detailed 3D scanning and reconstruction of archaeological artifacts.
        – Using computational methods to reconstruct ancient sites or civilizations.
        – Creating digital replicas of cultural heritage sites and artifacts for future generations.
        – Combining genetic data and historical records to build extensive family trees.
        – Analyzing large corpuses of historical texts for linguistic patterns, authorship, and historical context.
        – Computational proofs of mathematical conjectures where results are not time-sensitive.
        – Testing and benchmarking new algorithms over extensive datasets.
        – Simulating the impacts of various environmental policies or changes on ecosystems over decades or centuries.
        – Predicting the orbits of comets and asteroids that will not come close to Earth for many years.

    3. Adding intermittently used electrolysis plants just adds to the problem: more capital is tied up in more equipment that sets idle when the wind doesn’t blow. The electrolysers’ capacity would be used even less frequently than the wind turbines’ capacity because the electrolysers would also be idle when the winds are blowing some but the power is needed by the grid.

      1. Once the compressor, storage and transportation infrastructure are in place adding additional MW of elecrolysers is actually pretty reasonable even when used intermittently.

        Additionally there is a good use case in a multi-unit load following generation facility to reduce the number of unit stops and starts (a surprisingly expensive process) by making electrolyzer load + other load = a fixed number

      1. Actually, Texas PAID (subsidized) bitcoin miners to stop operations when the Texas grid (independent from US national grids) got near stress levels. Firms got a healthy discount while market demand sent gW/h price’s soaring during heat waves.

        I’ll give you a guess which people did NOT get a discount when prices spiked.

    4. no, mine bitcoin with it. Bitcoin is essentially pegged to the average price of power around the world – when you get less BTC than electricity spent, you stop mining it. This would essentially create a world-wide market for all renewable surpluses. It won’t solve local supply issues, but it will at least smooth the peaks, and make overbuilding renewables more economical.

      Really though, nuclear is the only way to be sure.

    5. Hydrogen as storage is a terrible option.
      Hydrogen’s round trip efficiency is only ~25%, so employing electrolysis is no different than throwing away 3/4 of the power anyway.
      For comparison, batteries’ efficiency is over 90%, pumped hydro is over 80% and compressed air with thermal recovery can be 50%.

      1. The energy efficiency of a lithium battery that is charged and discharged once and then discarded is about 0.3%

        The efficiency of a lithium battery which undergoes the equivalent of one full charge-discharge cycle per year, for 15 years until decommissioning, is about 5%. This is representing seasonal energy storage where hydrogen would be the competing option. Even at 25% round-trip efficiency, hydrogen keeps five times more energy than batteries for the long term.

        This is because of the high embedded energy cost of batteries. It actually takes about 300-400 cycles to reach 50% efficiency in terms of energy through vs. energy invested. It takes 3,000-6,000 cycles to reach 90% efficiency depending on the battery chemistry. Almost no battery in the world is used for so many cycles – most of them die due to simple old age and thermal stress, having gone through at most a few hundred to little over a thousand cycles each. Batteries being 90% efficient is practically a myth.

        1. That said, batteries are efficient in the daily load shifting scenario, because they can rack up enough cycles within the 10-15 year calendar life. They’re just not very cheap for the point.

    6. Maybe we could reutilise the existing gas and oil power plants by adding large tanks of sand* to heat up to really high temps (I’m talking 400-500°c or more, however hot you can get them really), put some water pipes in there to boil water to run traditional steam turbine generators.
      The buildings and infrastructure are already there, just need to add the tanks (or possibly not even need to do that if you’ve already got storage tanks for the aforementioned gas and oil on site, just fill them with sand and electric hotsticks)

      *any kind, Sahara desert, Arabian desert, really any desert with an excess of otherwise economically useless sand

  1. “One suggested solution is to add more transmission capacity and more grid-level storage, but these scale poorly and are an economically dubious solution.”

    This seems counter-intuitive. Can you please elaborate. For example, it is difficult to see how energy Storage cost could do anything but scale linearly with capacity.

      1. What about pumped storage power stations? We have them for decades – are batteries that more efficient and cost effective? Even with all the problems they bring like battery life, fire hazard? I am really curious what put that technology so aside that some people even try tu push lifting concrete blocks instead?

        1. Pumped storage scales poorly. Try building a big one. You go from searching for a (rare) suitable site for a small one, to having to build a mountain and flood a town.

          1. The craziest schemes involve coring out a kilometer-wide plug out of solid bedrock, next to a huge lake, and then pumping the lake under the ground to lift the plug up. This could store some terawatt-hours of electricity, but it would still only represent a small percentage of total demand, and there’s only two or three places in Europe you could plausibly pull it off.

            The storage problem is so large that most people just can’t wrap their heads around how much energy you need to store to smooth output on a yearly scale. Batteries are a drop in the ocean for this.

          2. Example: EU electricity consumption is around 2800 TWh per year. All the fjords in Norway, if built full of hydroelectric plants, could store up 85 TWh of energy, representing 3% or 11 days worth of demand.

            To put this into perspective, the EU gas grid presently holds 200-300 TWh worth of methane.

          3. And, with hydroelectric pumped storage, the largest unit sizes we presently have are in the 10 GWh range. More typically you’re looking at single gigawatt-hours. The largest battery systems we have are in the hundreds of Megawatt-hours.

            So with batteries, you have a million-fold gap between what is presently feasible and what is needed. With hydro, a thousand-fold.

  2. See the latest IEEE spectrum for Clear, good information about the risks of too much grid-follow sources (rather than grid-forming) It isn’t just oversupply that is the issue. It is stability.

  3. Overproduction during the ideal months is a a necessary feature of a Wind/Solar/Hydro solutions. You need to overproduce on the best days to accommodate the worst, you also need storage but no where near as much as most people imagine. A study in Australia is looking at this and finding about 130% of necessary production seems to cover 100% of needs alongside about half a days worth of storage. Its a model its been running for a few years but it shows its absolutely doable and would be cheaper than the current fossil fuel based solutions.

    What do we do with this overproduction given it has to be there? Well we use it to convert to methane or heavier carbon based fuels, multiple companies have early solutions to hydrocarbons and this is probably the best route forward to getting below net zero. Initially this will go into powering heating, cars and such during the transition but at some point we start putting the oil back into the wells it came from, all using that excess power which is effectively zero price.

    I think people imagine this will increase prices but actually overproduction like this combined with storage is already cheaper than nuclear, gas and coal per MWh. Solar and wind are just that cheaper per MWh now. I suspect based on the way things are going with Solar price scaling we may also find soon Wind turbines aren’t worth buying if they carry on getting cheaper.

    1. “Overproduction during the ideal months is a a necessary feature of a Wind/Solar/Hydro solutions. You need to overproduce on the best days to accommodate the worst, you also need storage but no where near as much as most people imagine.”

      Wasn’t there this idea of use molted salt, or something? To store electrical energy as heat?

      1. Molten salt and hot sand battery concepts have been considered in many places. Not sure the Aussies would want it though – as the best way to use the heat stored is as heat to avoid further conversion losses making it back into electricity… So it would be a better option for places like Finland where heat is in such huge demand much of the year.

        I’d think for Aus compressed air may be a better solution for storage – they have lots of space and the biggest downside to CAES is the space it takes up. But ultimately I don’t think it really really matters which one you are trying at this point, they are all better than nothing, and probably all going to profitable enough to start with. Its in a few years of operation’s time when you actually have more accurate data on the cost of maintenance and efficiency of storage and have refined the designs you’ll end up with the best options being clearer, and probably still have a mix – some shorter term, perhaps flywheel, some more longer term capable etc.

        1. You also have commercial ACs that make ice all night when power is available and cheap. Obviously this is not in fantasy land of every roof has solar.

          Compressed air storage sucks, humidity ruins everything.

          1. >ACs that make ice all night when power is available and cheap. Obviously this is not in fantasy land of every roof has solar.

            Well if every roof has solar the only thing you need to do is delete the ‘all night’ – whenever there is cheap power available, which with lots of solar on the grid may happen in daylight hours sometimes, either way they make the ice and it stores that energy for future use…

            >Compressed air storage sucks, humidity ruins everything.

            It really doesn’t suck, the biggest flaw it has is a large footprint requirement – it just isn’t energy dense. But it is otherwise cheap, enduring, without rare/expensive/limited materials, and has huge flexibility. However if you design this system for massive peak power output or long term more steady storage and delivery your efficiency will be ruined trying to use it the wrong way (though you can with more expense be reasonably good at both).

            Humidity really isn’t much of a problem, it often will mean the system collects water in the bottom of the tank (or whatever other spot you have deliberately picked as the lowest point of the setup). So yes eventually the water level will get deep enough it matters to the system overall, but at that point you can just drain it off. And any humidity left in the air as you expel it again doesn’t really make any odds.

            The only thing the expectation of humidity does is limit you to using metals of similar electronegativity to keep galvanic action controlled and that do not get consumed when exposed to wet and air trivially on their own. Which is a long solved problem.

            Also you actually have to have significant water content in the air you are compressing for it matter much at all, so the places that trend towards being very very dry won’t have to worry much at all, why the places that have 90% humidity as a default setting may be better off looking for other solutions.

    2. >you also need storage but no where near as much as most people imagine.

      How do you shift production from the “ideal months” in summer to the dead of winter without gargantuan batteries?

      These studies are from places with year-round availability of solar and/or wind in much steadier rates than what is typical in other markets. It’s the same folly as saying “solar power is cheap, look at Saudi-Arabia!”.

    3. How does overproduction on day 0 accommodate 0 production on day 1? If you can’t rely on an energy source and know there will always be demand, then you need something else to cover that demand when the variable source is producing nothing. Simple really, almost like when Germany (and Sweden) shut their nuclear reactors they just imagined the energy produced by them magically would keep coming, from errr nowhere. Then when they covered acres with solar and wind, and assumed when the wind blows and sun shine the payback will come, except obviously when that happens the price paid for electric plummets and well, no payback.

      1. I mean you could just not turn the light on for day 0. And you could plan day 0 to be in the summer?
        Possibly you would not even need to turn the light on for several days, if you live somewhere warm, like Finland perhaps?

    4. This is the way, finally someone thinking about actual use instead of wanting to store a years worth of electricity for a continent.

      I also believe that building the cheapest source of energy will indeed give lots of cheap energy. It’s not for every usecase but will cover alot of them, and contribute to all others.

      Some seem to think that taking something decently priced, and adding something cheaper to it will net a much higher price after? If it would then it’s quite clear that the system is broken.

  4. The real problem isn’t technology, but the perverted concept of economy and capitalism, maybe.
    The goal should be that energy is eventually free of charge.
    Same goes for drinking water and living space worldwide.
    Once such basic needs are being satisfied, humanity as a whole can progress much more and concentrate on things in life that truly matter.

    1. If energy gets free of charge, nothing stops anyone from abusing this right and draining the pool. It’s an old problem, “The tragedy of the commons.”

      It’s not the perverted concept of economy, but a perverted notion that someone have to produce something we need but not be paid for it. Power, drinking water and living space should not be free, but not be a privilege either. They have to cost something, but not your entire economic output.

      1. Good point. Lets work out how can we make people pay for oxygen or at least clean air. Because I can produce those for money, people shouldn’t be allowed them for free. We should probably charge for all education also. If you are worried about waste just give everyone 300l of free water a day, charge for the rest.
        People are already abusing the right to water in the UK. The water companies and shareholders are stealing vast amounts of money from the public and customers and polluting the rivers.

        1. Every time a car with an internal combustion engine is bought, the buyer is paying for the catalytic converter. That’s how you pay for clean air.

          Many people pay a lot of money for private education. They do it because they believe in not poisoning their children’s minds in government-controlled schools.

          Your sarcastic non sequiturs do not make your point.

        2. Air Thief: Every time you see them breath in you can’t help but think. ‘Something useful could have been done with that air’. Synonyms: ‘MBA’, ‘MP’, ‘Congressperson’.

      2. I’m not sure if I can agree.
        The current way of living or how western civilization works is foolish, immature.

        Just look at old civilizations that lived in harmony with their environment.
        Their concepts worked for thousands of years.

        Even in our hemisphere, not long ago, people could get free water from the local fountain or from the river.
        So yes, these things should be free of charge, rightfully.

        (Paying a tax fee for supporting the maintenance of the water reservoirs, sewage treatment plant, the sewers, water pipes etc is another story, of course.
        Because that’s something that all citizens would indirectly pay for, through an aforementioned tax fee.
        It could be implemented in several ways that are socially fair.)

        That’s why I hope there will be a change in mindset, eventually.
        A time in which we stop to think about people in categories such as “producers” and “consumers”.

        And rather than charging money for something, to artifical limit the few resources from being spent,
        we should rather try to find lasting resources, so that all people can live a life without existential problems.

        It comes without saying that people shouldn’t waste resources, of course.
        In a normal, healthy society they wouldn’t even try to waste them on purpose, free of charge or not.
        It’s all a matter of how people are being raised and educated.

        When I was young, it was just normal that people didn’t carelessly threw away food or an unfinished meal, for example. Money was irrelevant.
        We all finished our meals, normally.
        So this concept works, it’s a matter of society.

        Speaking of water and foods, these are all existential problems.
        Those worries are the main driving force why people are into meaningless “actionism” and doing poor jobs.

        They’re forced to do meaningless activities just to earn money to pay cost of living.
        They have little time to live or think,
        to think about changing the status quo.

        Which all comes with a high price: Earning money just to pay your existence does cost you lifetime.
        The most precious thing there is.

        In western culture, so many people race through their daily life that they miss out on actually enjoying the life.
        The film “silent running” describes this in a good way, I think.

        Only a few people make a pause to watch the birds fly or enjoy falling the leaves in autumn.
        Everything has gotten too fast-paced. Because of success, money and “jobs”. Sad.

        In our moden world, people devote their lifetime to power a machinery that’s without any purpose, except for powering itself.

        So once existential problems are out of way, people have peace of mind and can focus on their talents,
        do something they’re good at or something that they do enjoy.

        That way, they may even contribute to society in a way they couldn’t before. That’s good for all the people, I think.

        But maybe that’s just me.
        A lot of those economy concepts on HaD seem to be from an American point of view and are alien to me.
        The whole mindset feels upside-down so often, too.

        Money should never a driving force in a society, but rather a tool, at best.
        A nasty utility, an item for exchange.
        So people don’t have to trade cows and stuff.

        Speaking of, in Germany, the Rhine Model is being used, also.
        It tries to add a more social, more fair take on capitalism.
        Which still doesn’t work as well as being hoped, there’s still lots to be desired.

        1. >Just look at old civilizations that lived in harmony with their environment. Their concepts worked for thousands of years.

          Because there were so few of them and they were struggling to survive in the first place, that they never met the limits of carrying capacity for their environments.

          The “balance of nature” is a myth cooked up in the 60’s when people started speculating about self-regulating ecosystems and the “Gaia hypothesis”. In truth nature is more or less bang-banging between extremes with long periods of pseudo-stability in between, where it could go either way.

        2. even in kumbaya singing kibbutzes, there’s always the person who doesn’t do the dishes or clean the toilets when it’s their turn to do it. Your ideas go against the nature of humans: we are selfish, and when we see someone not doing their fair share, we are even more selfish.
          So your utopia: basically, a no.

      3. “It’s not the perverted concept of economy, but a perverted notion that someone have to produce something we need but not be paid for it.”

        Indeed. *starts drawing a picture* *composing a song* *writing an article for an online website* ;-)

    2. Living spaces should be free? How would that be calculated then? Singletons get a 30m2 flat, couples 60m2 and for every child an extra 10m2? If not like that then there’s going to be lots of unhappy people living freely in a small flat, whilst their single neighbour is also living freely in a large flat. Affordable accommodation yes, not free.

      1. With solar PV, wind and hydro generation we are getting close to a no consumables cost generation system with enough capacity for everyone. Storage is catching up fast and there will be a point, if that generation is distributed and stored effectively that delivery and delivery maintenance is a small monthly fee. Currently in the US, we’re closer on the west coast and in the southwest than in the east or north. Yet those few providers are promised hundreds of millions to billions in annual profits for shareholders. Energy in the US has become something only the well off/well-enough can afford. Oil industry subsidies have artificially kept the cost of gasoline down low enough nearly everyone can afford enough gasoline per week to get around and junky used cars are cheap. Start shifting to electric cars and now a large portion of society can’t afford to cook, keep lights on, or charge their car. So the line is there it’s just a matter of how we step over it or if it ends up being a wall we run into.

        1. Population decline is highly correlated with increased wealth and education in a society. This is why eu, America have decreasing numbers, Asia following, Africa still has high numbers

  5. “Meanwhile, countries like Finland and France also integrate significant VREs on their grids, but with a strong base of hydropower and nuclear plants (both of which can load follow), which significantly reduces operating costs.”

    Not applicable to Germany, I’m afraid. Not anymore, at least.
    The few atomic power plants that are left in Germany are worn and outdated.
    They might have been modern in the 60s or 80s, though.
    These days, they’d have to be rebuilt from ground up in order to be operable again.
    That’s not a small project, either.

    Then, there are two extra issues that come to mind:

    Firstly, no usable storage place available for dumping the used-up atomic material.
    That salt mine in Gorleben has issues with water leaking in.
    So older, existing atomic containers must be evacuated, even.
    The salt mine never was meant to be more than a temporary storage, also.
    In all those years (decades) an alternative site wasn’t found, however.

    Secondly, the castor transports between Germany and France, to refresh core material:
    In the past, the transport via castor trains had repeatedly caused trouble with environmentalists.
    This was before international terrorism already, now the situation would be even more serious.


      Those two will solve the problems. Whether the answers are palatable is another answer. is my preferred solution to easily adding capacity. Co-locate them at already secure facilities such as airports, power stations or military sites. Obviously thorium would be ideal but that doesn’t look likely. However I could foresee a race for new uranium and plutonium power plants soon for reasons.

      1. How would you have a secure facility when blowing it up is what you are trying to avoid? Would you have military, and no man’s land? Sounds like a thin veil of safety to me.

    2. “The few atomic power plants that are left in Germany are worn and outdated.
      They might have been modern in the 60s or 80s, though.”

      This is simply not true! Yes they were build around that time, but they were modernized constantly until the end. These were some of the most reliable and safest nuclear power plants on earth!
      The only problem in Germany with nuclear technology are the damaged minds of stubborn people who were conditioned by media and ideological parties over decades!

  6. This sounds like an accounting issue, not a power generation issue. Just replace the price field with an unsigned number and then everything is perfect once it tries to go less than 0.

  7. What? No comment on *why* prices go negative?

    The prices are only going negative because there are laws guaranteeing the renewable sources a market. They don’t *have* to produce the energy: panels don’t like, explode if they don’t have a load. You just move them off max power.

    It isn’t really “bad,” it’s the cost of subsidizing renewables. If it’s happening too often, just… wean back on the guarantees.

    1. If you reduce the subsidies, it hits the bottom line of the producers and investments in VREs will halt.

      The problem is that VREs eat their own market – when one is producing, it’s almost guaranteed that others will too, at the same time. Solar is notorious for this: when the sun is up, everyone’s pushing power, so everyone has to curtail output and lose money – unless the government is paying and pushing the problem on to other producers.

      1. I mean, yes? That’s kinda the point? At some point, you’ve made enough renewables and they need to stand on their own. Yes, obviously, you’ve got the night time issue, but, I mean, you’re not going to continue full guarantees to the point where you’ve got like 10x demand capacity or something ridiculous.

        It’s not like the only options are “full subsidy!” and “nothing.” The main costs for renewables are capital investment so their margins should improve over time (and if they don’t, that’s their problem). Plus if you shift the subsidy from production to storage, you just create a demand curve that matches the opposite of the supply.

        1. Well, if you cut the subsidies then even the existing system would see a collapse within a decade, because they’re regularly pushing more than they could actually sell.

          For the past 20 years that they’ve handed out the subsidies, the operators – for what I’ve observed – run the turbines and panels for as long as the subsidy term lasts and then abandon them to rot. They don’t even reach the projected 25 year operating life, more like 12 years and then they just leave them without maintenance until they break. A wind turbine that has to sell on the free market without price guarantees would make a loss almost every time there’s good wind, because every other turbine in the area is also producing.

          1. “Well, if you cut the subsidies”

            See above. It isn’t an “all” or “nothing” thing. No one’s building these things with zero profit incentive, they make money. You shave that incentive down, and the longevity incentive goes up, etc. etc.

            There’s plenty you can do, it’s just not being done because there’s so much pressure to get the capacity built as fast as possible. Which, I mean, given the consequences might not be the worst thing in the world. Optimal incentivization isn’t exactly a hallmark of a democratic government.

  8. If we’re so inept that we can’t find a way to use free electricity, then why not just shade some of the panels when there’s an oversupply? Panel aging is almost entirely due to sun exposure, so you’re essentially just saving the electricity for later.

    1. It would effectively mean building solar panels that you never use. Solar power is highly “peaky”, it makes most of its output during the same peak hours in the middle of the day, for a large geographical area.

        1. 1. They called it solar *farm* to get it under peoples’ radar screen and make it sound nice and not non-desirable – who doesn’t like farms?
          2. They’re putting up solar in fields that used to be farmed (cause its easier you don’t need to chop down forests). Saying “co-locate” is the same as calling it a farm – but no, the colocaed crops aren’t the sane ones and the yields are not the same (indirect sunlight only; harvest the crops in between metal
          3. Watch for greenwashing of words.

          1. You are assuming you put solar only on the normal arable crop fields in place of farming them normally – it can in fact be put on the fallow field in rotation – in which all the wild flower and nitrogen fixers etc that want shadier conditions can be grown and in part also restore the soil. Or put the solar on the scrubland that isn’t easy to arable farm for whatever other reason – rocky, steep, small awkward shape leftover from the other fields and roads etc. And sheep etc can be allowed to graze underneath (assuming your solar are on tall enough legs.

            I do agree you have to watch for linguistic shenanigan obscuring the more greenwashing and foolish applications of the concept, but the concept itself isn’t inherently flawed, and the wording of co-locate etc can be accurate.

  9. I have a similar problem with my off-grid cabin on sunny summer days when I am away from it. The battery fills and then there is nothing to do with the kilowatts of power coming from my panels. I’d like to maybe produce hydrogen or smelt aluminum or mine a sufficiently earth-raping cryptocurrency. So far the only thing I’ve been doing is running a space heater in the basement to bring its temperature up to something comfortable (it would otherwise stay uncomfortably cold well into July).

    1. Well as you can heat the basement and mine crypto at the same time if you have the funding to build the rig… That said seems like a terrible waste, and encouraging crypto at all something more like ecological vandalism…

      Hydrogen is probably the better option of the ones you suggest if you have a source of water nearby, got some hazards you’d have to be careful of, especially if its running automatically without oversight.

      For me I think the best bet might be liquefying or just compressing air – I’d argue its safer than Hydrogen as if leaks or the tanks ever overpressure the pressure relief should blow and exhaust air again – not got nearly the same explosive or fire potential. And if you go through the effort to set up you could split out useful bits and bottle up the Argon etc – whichever bits that may be useful/valuable enough in the area. If your thinking of smelting I’d assume you probably also weld…

        1. That would seem to be yet another step further in complexity though. Which for an individual who isn’t there all the time to monitor and maintain it all the time is probably not viable. I do agree its a valid and useful potential solution, but probably not for Gus’ problem.

          1. I wouldn’t say making hydrogen at home is easy either. For instance, you need purified water or your electrolysis setup will gunk up in no time.

            All of these processes are highly inefficient when scaled down.

          2. Didn’t say Hydrogen was easy Dude, which is why I suggested sticking with Air, but your suggestion would require hydrogen production anyway and then carbon capture and a way to controllably combine the two into whichever hydrocarbon is your desired product. That is two more (at least) processes on top of just electrolysing water, which is a big enough challenge to do as an individual.

    2. If you have a spare computer that is currently sitting unused, you can mine Monero with the CPU, no special hardware required. Yes, it is generating some heat, but you can use that to heat your basement instead of using the space heater. And because your electricity is literally free, you can outcompete other miners on the network, making it less profitable to mine using fossil fuels.

  10. The only negatives I see are capitalism breaks apart once energy becomes free. The laws that support the nonsense of paying to give away energy to other countries need to be abolished and rewritten in their entirety, as does the whole enegy ecosystem of scumpanies exploiting every natural resource for insane riches to a select few, at the cost of everyone else on earths earnings and futures.

    The system itself is inherently corrupt and stagnated by the long standing interference of the oligarchy of oil barons dictating law, policy and cost to everyone. We’re past time to collectively say FUCK OFF and replace those antiquated and inequal structures in their entirety. Rewrite the EU’s laws to collectively remove those companies as they and dictate fair and equal pricing and guidelines that aren’t just exploititive.

    Fuck the system, it’s overdue a collapse and fuck the consequences, we’ll deal with those when they happen

      1. Dave?…
        Dave’s not here.

        I was once ‘busted’ at work, Dave left the training session to go to the can. Door locked behind him.
        Knocked. Said ‘Open up, it’s Dave’. I knew the responsorial, so did the other stoners in the room.

        It does suck that a moron shares your handle.

    1. I sense a lot of anger here, and I understand that and have similar feelings.

      But letting it collapse and deal with the consequences later is not an option. Things are not going to improve with civil wars and famine. You won’t make many friends with that attitude.

      On the “top” both in politics and companies it’s a big mess. It’s turned form policy makers to selfishness, money grabbing and short time prestige. I don’t have a solution, but yours ain’t a solution either. I suggest you try to channel your anger into something more positive.

      1. Making friends isn’t really my concern, radical changes are neccessary and and changes on such scales will always cause upheaval and pushback from people. It’s impossible, and highly undesirable, to make everyone happy, or to make world leading changes to the systems that bind us without pissing a LOT of people off. This bothers me not in the slightest. A lot of people are too stupid to even accept changes that are neccessary as they’re either too scared of change, or too compliant with the current systems to even dream of accepting the fact that things have to change, and that’s going to cause friction.

        I make literally zero suggestions other than change needs to happen, soon, and on a scale hithero unimagined to sort this mess of oligarchies and plutocratic regimes out. Just becuase I don’t “have a plan” doesn’t mean that I’m not right, or that we should meekly accept more of the same, for all time, becuase people are scared of necessary changes.

        The system needs to burn, and fuck the consequences, they’re irrelevant in the grand scheme of things. If every state in teh EU says FUCK OFF to these companies, literally destroys them in law, leaving no recourse to appeal a damn thing, in unison, and siezes control of THEIR OWN BLOODY ASSETS, and changes the systems so its not profit driven, but need driven, even that alone is ample to make an instant positive impact. States should not be fucking scared to act in unison to obliterate monopolies and corrupt megacorps.

          1. Thanks, it’s top of my ambitions, sometimes the only way to make change happen is to be the one in charge, alone. Just some of us are more honest and don’t hide behind a web of lies like most politically minded sleezebags

          2. I would. I would make myself a palace with all the goodies, and then do jack **** otherwise. I would delegate that authority to some other fool who thinks they can fix things.

        1. >changes the systems so its not profit driven, but need driven, even that alone is ample to make an instant positive impact.

          How do you measure “need”? After all, if you can’t define or measure it, then you can’t set up your system to serve it.

          They tried in the Soviet Union. It didn’t quite work.

          1. Back in the 1950s, need was measured by an applause meter on the TV show “Queen For a Day”. The person most effective at displaying misery usually won. Imagine a world where getting food and shelter required screaming and public display of oozing wounds: that’s a needs-based society.

          2. More to the point, if defining needs are left to the discretion of the individual people, then everybody suddenly needs all sorts of things. I for instance absolutely need my top shelf Scotch whisky or I would just be miserable. Wouldn’t you think of poor me?

            If people get to vote on the matter, politics breaks down into voting who has to be a slave and who gets to spend all the spoils. It’s never going to be an equitable system because of the tyranny of the 51st percent.

            If you don’t get to vote on the matter… well who says the dictators don’t just take it all to themselves and their buddies? I.e. what happened in every single communist country.

      2. Why would cheap energy make wars? At most some companies will topple, and their panels will be sold to some other company. And some other company will make money using almost free energy instead of having negative prices.. it can’t be too expensive when it’s free, and efficiency only matters when you pay for it.

    2. If energy is free, no-one will produce it, because you can get it for “free” and guess where that “free” energy is? Nowhere.

      This quite frankly silly thinking, shows how little children understand about economics.

      1. Keynsian economic policy and the insatiable greed of neo liberal capitalism are something I’m well acquainted with, thanks. It’s what’s got us all into this mess.

        1. It’s not really the economic policy that is the problem, but the fact that governments all over the world are trying to regulate away the problems they themselves have created by law, such as limited liability corporations that can do whatever they want, which is a legal fiction and not something inherent to free markets or “capitalism”.

          None of the economic theories or policies work when the state keeps granting special privileges to private entities that break all the previous rules.

          1. The Devil’s in the details. LLCs are a net benefit because they encourage investment in productive enterprises and allow executives to make daring decisions on new technologies. Apparently the laws have been poorly written, because some executives use their relative immunity to make financial gains while damaging others. Part of the blame goes to government regulators who are bought off, who refuse to press charges against wrongdoers or who persecute whistleblowers.

            Bad people exist. How to counter them is an ongoing problem.

          2. >Apparently the laws have been poorly written

            Terribly written. LLC + separate corporate personhood means that nobody is really responsible for what the corporation does, which leads to the situation where the corporation as a separate entity behaves like a complete sociopath.

        2. There are no Keynsians!

          Keynsians _save_ during boom times.

          All we have is MMP twits claiming to be Keynsians, while running the printing presses on nitromethane and bromine pentafluoride.

          I do give credit for Chutzpa. Printing two trillion dollars U.S. and calling it the ‘Inflation Reduction Act’ was absurdist performance art.

  11. I don’t see “negative prices” for electric energy necessarily as a bad thing. Some users may find themselves smart if they turn on all the space heaters they have and put them in the garden, and that would be completely bonkers (I guess regular consumers don’t get paid for using electricity). Negative prices are a good market thing for companies that deal with equalizing electricity delivery such as pumped hydro or batteries. Just turning off solar and wind because of negative prices would also be madness.

    Germans tend to proud themselves in their use of renewables, but decommissioning perfectly good nuclear power plants before they are worn out is also pure madness. And they only realized that when Ukraine “happened”. They have also buying nuclear energy from France whenever the need it and usually neglect to mention that. I guess a lot of damage has been done by that misleading children’s book that claimed how bad nuclear energy was supposed to be. Children who believed that probably became enthusiastic protesters 15 years later.

    Germany also has about the most expensive electric energy from the whole of Europe, and this also shows that the current system does not work very well. And of course, generating electricity from oil or coal, and then neglecting the costs of the effects of CO2 gives a falsely cheap price for such plants, but paying full price for solar and wind, which can not guarantee a steady supply, or deliver during peak hours is also not fair.

    Cost of solar and wind just is not realistic without adding the costs of a method to spread their delivery to the hours that there is a demand for electricity. A few months ago I read an article about an US state that has around 40% of it’s energy delivered from batteries during peak hours. (That was around dinner time when people go home and start cooking etc). During peak demand hours, solar is already well beyond it’s peak, so it can’t help much without some additional system.

    1. > Germans tend to proud themselves in their use of renewables, but decommissioning perfectly good nuclear power plants before they are worn out is also pure madness.

      Only it is not. Nuclear energy always has been the most expensive type of energy, only “viable” because of large susidies. At least in Germany, no insurer would insure any of those power plants with a reasonable amount of coverage.
      So from an economic standpoint alone, abandoning those power plants makes sense.
      Whether or not a country wants to run such power plants for other reasons is another question.

      > They have also buying nuclear energy from France whenever the need it and usually neglect to mention that.

      You mean that France that has been importing large amounts of electricity from Germany because half of their nuclear plants had been shut down for maintenance and repairs for months?

      1. Oh the shut-down-French-reactor fallacy. Every heard of schedule maintenance? Guess what, they can’t do that with an on-line reactor, so surprise surprise they shut down. Similarly France has so many reactors that having a few offline is nothing unusual. What was unusual was particularly dry spells where some had to go offline due to lack of sufficient cooling. But apart from that France is a great example of how to nurture and look after your nuclear investment.

        1. > Every heard of schedule maintenance?

          I sure have. The thing is, during that scheduled maintenance they noticed a lot of issues that they weren’t able to quickly rectify. Most likely because they have turned a blind eye to those issues for a long time until they couldn’t be ignored any longer. This was also very typical for german and belgian reactors.
          It wasn’t just a few reactors that were offline.

          You’d think a typical scheduled maintenance would be scheduled in such a way, that only few ractors are offline at a time. This didn’t work out due to those issues.

          The fact that it was unusually dry didn’t help either of course, but it wasn’t the only issue.

          > But apart from that France is a great example of how to nurture and look after your nuclear investment.

          If that really was the case, they would’ve looked after those reactors more carefully. Could you look after the reactors and maintain them properly at all times? Sure, certainly possible. This isn’t what is happening though. Sure Belgium might be even worse, but this certainly wasn’t a great showing for France and Germany’s reactors had their fair share of problems due to poor maintenance as well. People seem to care more about money than safety and reliability. I would argue that this is the biggest issue with nuclear energy. In theory nuclear power could be deployed in a safe way, but people prove time and time again that they don’t really care about that.

          1. Same thing here, scheduled maintenance for a week turns into offline for a year. Funny how the “reliable” and “planable” plants are offline like that.

            Other kinds of energy has similar setbacks as well but since they are not such big lumps it’s way less negative impact, and with all other kinds being cheaper as well they just plain seem like a better option.

      2. > Nuclear energy always has been the most expensive type of energy, only “viable” because of large susidies. At least in Germany, no insurer would insure any of those power plants with a reasonable amount of coverage.

        Actually, that’s completely false. Germany’s NPPs have been paid off for decades, were running a profit and producing power for very low cost, competitive with (non-dispatchable) VRE. You can read all of this in the reports by reputable sources published over the past years.

        The only reason why Germany isn’t running NPPs today is because they are legally prevented from doing so. Don’t believe it? Remove the ban and let the free market do its magic. Make sure to also remove all the subsidies that have gone into VRE so far as well, which is now in the order of hundreds of billions of Euros over just the past two decades.

  12. Change our habitual time frames from 9 to 5 and the 24 hour clock to ‘wind/sun’ and ‘no wind/sun’. When the electrons are available – do stuff – charge your car etc. When it’s not, huddle under the duvet with a battery powered lantern. Simples.

      1. Are we supposed to be scared? The world does not need growth. A better distribution of profit would be great, but scaling back on consumption and pointless increases in metrics would be good for both people and nature.
        People don’t need stuff, we need healthy food and each other.

        1. To stop growth, it has to be actively suppressed. Innovation has to be stifled. Do you like LED lights that are ten times as efficient as incandescents? If growth had been stopped 60 years ago, we wouldn’t have them. We wouldn’t have family autos that get 35 MPG. However, London would still have killer smog.

          1. My ’68 Datsun 1600 easily got 35 mpg every day, and could seat five comfortably. My ’75 Datsun 210 easily got 45 mpg on the highway (but couldn’t seat five very comfortably). No air conditioning in either though, so your definition of “comfortably” might differ.

          2. Growth and Innovation are not the same thing at all, though they are sometimes linked. You can have progress without growth, and I would argue its inevitable you will have some – good ideas cost almost nothing to develop, and then reduce the costs of doing things the same old way – so innovation could at times be considered the reverse of growth anyway…

          3. It sounds like you’re describing what I’d call progress, not growth. Maintaining the growth rate of the past couple centuries would have silly results – for instance I believe someone calculated that if we got all our power from the tides and maintained current growth, in a few more centuries they would cease to exist as the moon would no longer rise and set because the earth would be locked facing it. Or the population would grow so that we’d all have a postage stamp worth of land area to stand on, even if we didn’t need to eat or anything.

            IIRC, I once calculated that in the U.S., the per-capita energy cost difference between when we were using incandescent lighting instead of LED lighting is about as much as the per-capita energy of using an EV for each American’s average of 40 miles a day of driving. If we hadn’t already switched, that’d be an example of a way to innovate and make progress without requiring growth above and beyond what’s required due to population growth, which we’d ideally limit but obviously that’s a whole different thing with huge ethical context to consider.

          4. Progress is what happens in the gap where your available resources are expanding faster than the population can consume them, so there’s enough surplus to invest in things like research and development, or just blowing stuff up to see what happens.

            With de-growth, you stop expanding your resources. Even if you don’t shrink your economy per se, the population catches up in numbers and eats up all the surplus that was available for progress. You end up spending all your economic output on people, because everyone wants more for themselves anyways.

  13. The situation is different in the EU electricity market and much more complex than expected.

    It is important to understand that the end customer price consists of several price components. The electricity production costs are only one part. In addition to the generation costs, grid fees, taxes and levies must also be taken into account when making a comparison.

    Overproduction of renewables does not necessarily lead to negative prices. Negative prices always occur when the forecast for consumption and generation (usually weather forecasts) does not coincide with reality. This is because a controllable power plant will not voluntarily offer its generation capacity at negative prices. It can even be seen as an advantage that PV systems are so well controllable in their reduction of generation capacity.

    Electricity trading between Germany and France is usually only used to show that “cheap” energy is imported from France from the nuclear power plants that are predominant there. What is often omitted is that the nuclear power plants are not easily controllable and have to bring their generation capacity to the market. On the other hand, there is also a large export of electricity from Germany to France, where France benefits from cheap wind generation from Germany in the winter months.

    In 2023, this amounted to 8.92 TWh from Germany to France and 9.34 TWh in the other direction.
    In the past, Germany has imported electricity from France in the summer months and vice versa in the winter months. (

    Therefore, from Germany’s point of view, it is not a mistake to expand Solar Power.

    1. Care to add in how much energy Germany imported from Sweden during one recent summer? Energy so expensive it was profitable to fire up the reserve oil plant in the south of Sweden just to generate more energy for Germany (as they’d lost their nuclear and gas supplies in short succession).

      1. As the root cause of that is something outside of German control where having more solar that they can use and trade is not – The cost when something throws the global market for anything out of the normal operating conditions isn’t something you can really expect any company or nation to be safe from. Some will be able to profit more by luck than judgement while others will pay the premium if they can.

        So more solar etc is a good way to hedge your bets – more energy for your own industry and more trade with your many friendly local nations so between you hopefully everyone has what they need and none of you are now so at the mercy of outside elements you have no ability to control or predict and adapt to in a timely fashion.

          1. When you are talking about the energy security of a nation of the cost of ‘placing too many bets’ so its a bit expensive to win pales into insignificance compared to failing to win at all. Which is something Germany has been feeling ever since Russia invaded Ukraine – they put rather too much of their bets on that one supply and learned just how vulnerable it made their industry.

          2. That’s partly not applicable and partly not true. It’s not applicable because these bets aren’t all against a house which is always going to win in the end and you’re not just trying to win money from a losing party in a zero-sum or even negative-sum game. Ventures have a history of being undertaken because they can produce a positive average return, even though the average is in between a larger profit on success and a larger loss on failure. Investing is widely accepted to be a type of betting in which diversifying is a logical decision, and it’s possible to involve yourself in a staggering number of ventures at once without too much friction/fees.

            It’s also not even true that you should always expect to lose if you make too many bets in pure gambling, because you can find situations where while any combination of bets made with a single party are losing, a combination of bets made with multiple separate parties can average a win. For example, if the bookies Alfred, Bob, and Charlie each have a different favorite horse, then depending how much profit they bake into their odds, you may find that making a different bet with each of them adds up to a profit no matter what happens. (Of course, this is limited, but it does happen.)

          3. >diversifying is a logical decision

            Yes, when you’re spreading some amount of money on different ventures, you reduce your risk of losing it all. As the economy grows, you tend to win rather than lose by betting on the average.

            But when you pay more money to make redundant bets, it’s not the same kind of betting. For example, you could buy three different cars to bet that you have at least one working at all times, but you can only drive one at a time, so the value of the three cars is the same as one car while the cost is triple. As you make more of these kinds of bets, your cost goes up linearly while the relative benefit of added security quickly diminishes towards zero – because you already have a garage full of cars and adding one more won’t make any real difference.

          4. @Dude
            Redundancy in critical systems is rather important to function, be that individually or nation scale. Eventually you can go too far so would be better off putting that money somewhere else. But you really have a very long way to go most of the time. So to take your example I have 3 cars because I must have a working one at all times, that actually makes a huge amount of sense for many folks and services, and adding a 4th or 5th if the situation allows isn’t a bad idea either.

            As the individual its good for me always getting where I need to go, which must be very important to me to have invested in that much redundancy. And the cost of maintaining but not actually running more vehicles doesn’t really change much if at all for adding another, might even get cheaper as you no longer need any replacement part and fixes done with massive urgency to maintain your required minimium level of redundancy. Then if my community knows I have a spare ride available its good for them as well, while equally I’d benefit from the folks next doors available excess of whatever was to them worth investing extra in to be sure of.

            Or for instance you would rather want there to be a hot spare ambulance or three so you know the medical assistance you need isn’t sitting there tapping their foot as you die to the metaphorical papercut. And all because they have no way to get to you while the mechanic fixes their motor…

      2. They’ve also caught ‘solar’ producers installing large diesel gensets.

        As much as Germans are rules crazy, there are always some with healthy attitudes to rules and laws. Good on them.

  14. Periodic energy sources require either economical storage or full conventional backup. Going full on to the former is stupid without having already developed the latter. The fact that this has happened is due to the fact that this primarily driven by politics.

    Anyway, here’s to suckers…

    China is building six times more new coal plants than other countries (combined), report finds – March 2, 2023

    “Everybody else is moving away from coal and China seems to be stepping on the gas,” she says. “We saw that China has six times as much plants starting construction as the rest of the world combined.“

    CO2 emissions:

    1. I don’t see it that way, it’s not currently the case that we are relying entirely on renewables, but there is an electricity market that generates a mix of different sources. Every MWh that comes from solar or wind reduces the price of electricity. Every MWh that comes from solar or wind reduces the price of electricity.

      It makes no difference to the EU electricity market what type of power plant China builds.
      In addition to the China reports mentioned above, there are just as many current reports pointing in the other direction. China expanded more renewable energy than ever before in 2023.

      “The International Renewable Energy Agency (IRENA) says developers installed 345.5 GW of solar throughout the world in 2023. China mainly drove the surge, accounting for nearly three-quarters of all new renewable energy, but IRENA says more equitable growth will be needed to hit 2030 deployment targets.” (

      “China Southern Power Grid has deployed a 10 MWh sodium-ion battery in China’s Guangxi Zhuang region. It is the first phase of a 100 MWh project.

      With these batteries, storage cost can be reduced by 20% to 30%, and the cost per kilowatt-hour of electricity may be reduced to CNY 0.2 ($0.0276).”

      So that’s exactly what’s happening right now. Affordable flexibilization of renewable energies.

      The EU is not in a situation where it has too few conventional power plants; there are currently so many of them on the grid that nothing needs to be added to the main grid in order to have backup reserves.

  15. I have been thinking that the problems come from expectations based on the name “renewables”. Perhaps expectations will fall closer to reality if these energy sources are called “unreliables”. I move for a name change!

    1. There you go ‘Unreliables’ …. that name makes much more sense! And we’ll also see how ‘renewable’ all those solar panels and wind turbine blades are ;) as they fill our land fills and of course digging the materials out of the ground in the first place. They didn’t pop up by themselves. So ‘free’ energy? Not.

  16. Wow, must be really a bad place to live this country called germany, if I read the comments here by some nuclear/coal/fossil “fanboys”. ;)
    But I can tell you: our electricity grid is one of the most reliable on the planet. Outage time is 10-20 times (minutes vs. hours!) LESS than in the US and decreased over the years while the share of renewables went up.
    Ja, we should gain more speed in offshore wind generation – here Denmark is really ahead of us (also with one of the most reliable electricity grid btw.).
    73s from germany!

    1. Germany 357,021 km2 (137,847 sq mi) with 83.8 million people, compared to the US 9,840,000 km2 (3,800,000 sq mi) with 333.3 million people. Germany’s grid only has around 35,000 km of wire to maintain where the US has around 190,000 km

      Stop thinking the issues of a grape are congruous to those of a watermellon because they are both green ovoids. Size really does matter.

    2. Yes it really is a bad place to live. Tons of laws. Weather sucks. Full of germans. Only good thing is the beer.
      And you know that you’d all leave too if it wasn’t for the beer.

        1. German beer is good and cheap!

          Every nation has microbrews. The sprouts are not special.
          Germany makes good bear for less then American can beer.

          I’ll grant beer taxes are to German politics as Social Security is to American politics. Touch it and get voted out!

  17. only good thing about solar is it (usually) works at the same time you need peak power. unless you have regular wind patterns (which is location dependant) wind is more or less random. what you need is something to handle baseload and then supplement it with renewables (specifically solar which peaks in lockstep with industry).

    if only we had a small power plant that could use a little bit of hot metal to generate free and consistent heat that you can use to boil water and create steam and that uses no carbon. but what kind of science fiction is this?

      1. I was looking for RTGs the other day. I couldn’t find them anywhere. I think they will be expensive when they come on the open market. It’s probably cheaper to make your own. I think you need a cyclotron or nuclear reactor to make your isotope.

      2. was talking more fission in general. its proven workable technology kept down by some serious fud campaigns by companies who want to sell things like fossil fuels, solar panels, and wind turbines. its also kept down by government subsidies going to the others and red tape that kills the time table of new construction.

        frankly rtgs are a waste of plutonium.

  18. This is not really a problem isn’t it?

    Or are we only looking at the economic perspective?
    Everything that is “free” implies you are unable to profit from it, not only energy.

  19. > France buys German wind power for negative Euros via the European Electricity Exchange (EEX)

    No problem with that. Those people forget that France was forced to provide ‘everybody’ with nuclear energy at a bargain (less under the market price) for years when Germany was burning coal not to be frozen

    1. The fact that the frogs fake the accounting of nuclear costs is their own problem.
      Long term contracts have their own prices, that’s how they work. Forced? Contracts are enforced across borders in the EU.
      Long term spot price contracts exist, but risk.

  20. There is a very old, established solution: Use electricity to turn coal into acetylene gas. We only complete the cycle by adding the step of splitting CO2 into oxygen O2 and carbon C. Making pure carbon had been done by letting chlorine Cl2 react with methane CH4 in sun light. A lot of energy is needed but we already has all the steps.🙂🙂

  21. battery prices are fast dropping thanks to Chinese eg CATL. They’re at $40-50 per KWh now. Lithium iron and soon to come sodium batteries are perfectly suited for storage.

    CA and TX are building up battery storage at record rates using today’s tech. With next gen tech, it’s a no-brainer. Chinese are building and licensing battery tech in USA now bypassing tarrifs.

    Author’s premise’s wrong. Matter of time.

  22. With the advent of EVs offer charging to drivers at reduced rates when demand is low with the amount of battery capacity of all Evs will provide instant storage at no cost

  23. Who could have seen this coming? Oh right, everyone.
    Seriously though, my cost of electricity is still $0.10 per kWh thanks to nuclear and no viable green sources nearby.

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