Germany Generated So Much Renewable Power, Electricity Prices Went Negative

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Over the weekend, Germany did something amazing: It produced so much renewable energy that the cost of electricity actually went negative for a few hours. 

Yes, companies were actually paying some people to use electricity. 

Normally, Germany's renewable sources contribute an average of 33% of the country's total power consumption. But thanks to a particularly sunny and windy day, the country's various solar-, wind- and hydro-power planets were supplying 87% of the total energy consumed. 

Source: TOBIAS SCHWARZ/Getty Images
Source: TOBIAS SCHWARZ/Getty Images

That big dip in the graph below is where the prices went negative:

This is an incredible achievement, but it revealed a big problem: The country doesn't have a good system in place to take coal, nuclear and gas plants offline when a renewable surplus happens. 

That's why some industrial customers actually earned money from power companies. The problem is partly because it's hard to shut down something like a nuclear power plant and then crank it back up, Quartz reported

A closed nuclear power plant in GermanySource: Carsten Rehder/AP
A closed nuclear power plant in Germany  Carsten Rehder/AP

Still, Germany will have to find a way to correct the problem: It's planning to operate on 100% renewable energy by 2050. 

Some believe 100% renewable energy isn't possible because of natural decreases in sunlight and wind power, but in 2015, Costa Rica ran on 100% renewable power for 75 days. And Denmark regularly hits 100% and exports its excess power to neighboring countries.

Wind-powered turbines in Samsø, DenmarkSource: AFP/Getty Images
Wind-powered turbines in Samsø, Denmark  AFP/Getty Images

Renewable energy is the future. When will America enact the policies to make it happen?

h/t Quartz