On the last weekend of April, as the breeze was blowing and the sunshine was beaming, two-thirds of Germany's electricity came from renewable energy sources.
On Sunday, April 30, an average of 64 percent of electricity consumed in Germany came from renewable sources, according to data by German think-tank Agora Energiewende. At around 2pm, the share of renewables rose to 85 percent and from 10am to 6pm over 75 percent of demand was covered by clean energy.
Most of this push came from solar power plants, closely followed by a large contribution from wind farms (see graph below). That weekend also saw the least amount of coal the country has burned up “in recent history” and nuclear power plants reduce their output by up to 40 percent.
This situation will "be completely normal" by 2030, according to Dr Patrick Graichen, the director of Agora Energiewende.
These goals have been made a reality through the government's policy of Energiewende, one of the most extensive pushes towards low-carbon energy sources in the world.
In recent years, this initiative has seen the country pump €1.5 billion ($1.63 billion) a year into clean energy research. As a result of all this work, they hope to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 40 percent below 1990 levels, and slash them by at least 80 percent by 2050. A key part of this program is to totally phase out nuclear power by 2022.
"By 2022, the nuclear energy exit will be completed, so that in 2030 there is no longer a problem," added Graichen. "In addition, inflexible, old coal power plants have to be looked into. Along with the climate protection and the future EU limit values for nitrogen oxide emissions, this is another reason to take them off the grid in the foreseeable future."
So much energy was produced on April 30, it was accompanied by “negative prices” for several hours at the electricity exchange. This means that people were effectively being paid to consume electricity, in a roundabout way. Although that's good news for the average Joe, it shows that the issue of energy transition can be a thorny one.
"Events like this highlight that eventually we may need to start curtailing because of market-wide oversupply," Monne Depraetere, an analyst for Bloomberg New Energy Finance, told Bloomberg. "In the long-run, that may provide a case to build technologies that can manage this oversupply – for example more interconnectors or energy storage.”
Outside of Germany, many other countries are pushing to cut their greenhouse gas emissions and move towards clean energy. Just last month, the United Kingdom experienced its first day since the Industrial Revolution when it didn’t burn coal.