News that on several occasions Germany has produced more energy from renewables than the country actually needs is not necessarily a good thing. In the absence of viable storage capacity and a lack of demand for exported energy, Germany has been obliged to pay fossil fuel generators to shut down in order to avoid overloading the system.
This experience has resulted in German legislators passing a new measure to limit new renewable energy development, according to Monica Houston-Waesch and Christian Grimm at the Wall Street Journal:
“A new law will require generators of renewable energy to submit bids on a restricted number of projects as of 2017, replacing a system that allowed an unlimited number of projects to go forward at guaranteed prices, called feed-in tariffs. Under the new system, prices will be proposed by bidders.
“The move puts a brake on Germany’s aggressive drive to shift to renewables from conventional and nuclear energy, which gained speed after Japan’s Fukushima nuclear accident in 2011.”
The move is controversial because it is (at least in part) designed to protect employment at traditional suppliers. However, it offers a foretaste of the dilemmas facing politicians and regulators as most countries in Europe – including the UK – become increasingly dependent upon renewables for a large part of our electricity. In the absence of adequate storage technologies, a much bigger pan-European or even Eurasian electricity grid may be the only means by which over-supply in one region can be balanced against under-supply in another.