There Was So Much Wind In Germany Last Weekend That Electricity Was Free

This is what happens when you build the hell out of renewables.

Wind turbines near Dagebuell, Germany, during a massive storm.

In Germany, the power company pays you. At least, it did this weekend — thanks to massive windstorms and some strategically placed turbines.

According to a Bloomberg report, so much wind energy — 40 nuclear power plants worth — was generated during the storms that costs plummeted below zero, forcing utilities to pay customers to take it.

Germany has been on a renewable energy binge since 2010, when it launched its Energiewende program to transition away from fossil fuels. The country recently announced a plan to build a giant offshore wind farm without subsidies, betting that the project will be profitable without them.

Renewable energy had a pretty great weekend in the United States too. Despite historic ties to the coal industry, on Friday, the city of St. Louis voted unanimously to phase out fossil fuel power and transition to all-renewable energy by 2035.

“On the national level, the Trump administration is having these disturbing conversations about global warming being fake news. But it’s not fake,” Lewis E. Reed, president of the St. Louis Board of Aldermen, told NBC News. “So it’s going to cause cities, including ours, to pick up the reins and make up for the shortfall of action by the federal government.”

In fact ... wind and solar power are actually having a pretty phenomenal couple of years. Enabled by advances in technology, the price of wind power, already one of the most cost-effective methods of electricity generation, continues to plummet worldwide. Meanwhile, the price of solar power has fallen to half the price of coal in some countries, enabling them to bypass fossil fuel power entirely and “skip” straight to renewables.

This, despite the Trump administration’s dogged quest to pump up the flagging coal industry.

Earlier this month, EPA administrator Scott Pruitt announced the repeal of the Obama-era Clean Power Plan, which would have required power companies to cut emissions back to 2005 levels by 2030. Another administration initiative aims to subsidize coal plants at the expense of cheaper alternatives.

It may be a futile attempt to stave off the inevitable, as renewables continue to become cheaper and more attractive. A Bloomberg New Energy Finance report projects that thanks to falling prices, greenhouse gas emissions from fossil fuels may begin declining after 2026.

A solar farm in Florida. Photo by Kerry Sheridan/Getty Images.

Some analyses are more pessimistic, arguing that market forces alone won’t help countries meet their targets under the Paris climate accord, which commits signatories to take steps to limit global temperature rise to 2 degrees Celsius.

For now, lucky Germans are enjoying some on-the-house electricity and St. Louisans are looking forward to cleaner air in their future. And the world moves one step closer to leaving the lights on guilt-free.

Photo by Josh Couch on Unsplash

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