To hear its critics tell it, Germany’s ambitious push to switch over to renewable energy has delivered an electrical grid that’s capricious, unreliable, and prone to blackouts. But according to data highlighted by ECO Report last week, the reality on the ground couldn’t be further from that caricature.
Specifically, the availability of electricity in Germany was lost only for an average of 15.91 minutes per customer in 2012, according to figures from the Council of European Energy Regulators. That’s far better than the United States, which saw its electricity become unavailable for a whopping 244 minutes per customer in 2008. Germany also did significantly better than the United Kingdom (lost 81.42 minutes per customer in 2008), the Netherlands (lost 33.7 minutes per customer) and France (lost 95.1 minutes per customer). Of all the countries tracked, Japan and Singapore are the only two with grid reliability to match Germany’s.
And the country has actually maintained this record for several years: 2008 was the last year in Germany when the amount of minutes lost per customer breached 16.
ECO Report pointed to a recent article in Bloomberg as an example of the standard story on Germany. The argument goes that by making a big policy push to move the electrical grid onto to renewables like solar and wind — which produce power intermittently, since no one can control when the sun is out or the wind blows — and by making the purely political decision to phase out its nuclear fleet following the Fukushima disaster, Germany has left itself without the kind of reliable baseload power that can only be provided by nuclear reactors or fossil fuels like natural gas and coal.
As Bloomberg points out, Germany’s domestic electricity has become far more dynamic. Twenty of the country’s biggest utilities are now earning fees in the balancing market, an exchange where firms can earn additional profits by pledging to add or cut electricity within seconds to keep the power system stable. That’s double the amount of utilities that were participating in the balancing market just back in September — and the fees provided by the market can pay utilities as much as 400 times what they’d usually earn with wholesale electricity prices.