March 30, 2023

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Good for the climate: shower when the sun is shining (or when it's windy) |  Currently

Good for the climate: shower when the sun is shining (or when it’s windy) | Currently

On sunny days with strong winds, the Netherlands has recently been producing more electricity than it consumes. For people who use solar panels, this is a perfect time to do some laundry. But sustainable investors aren’t happy about it: they then have to pay for the electricity.

Last year, about a third of the electricity in the Netherlands was generated from renewable sources, and this share is increasing every year. This is good news: It reduces greenhouse gas emissions and reduces our dependence on natural gas, among other things.

But rapid growth also poses new problems. For example, network operators should overburden To absorb peaks in the power supply. Sustainable producers risk losing income during these peak energy periods.

These peaks occur on days when there is a lot of sun and wind. This year, for the first time, the Netherlands even produced several times (a short period of time) more electricity than it consumes. Then the price of electricity is negative.

This means that producers must pay for every kilowatt-hour of electricity they add to the grid. She wrote that solar lawns and wind farms are paused de Volkskrant Monday.

Investing in sun and wind remains attractive

How big is this problem really? And does this also hinder further investments in sustainable energy? Energy expert Thijs ten Brink thinks that won’t be the case. “Price volatility makes investing in green energy less attractive, but it does not directly impede the arrival of new wind and solar parks.”

This is because electricity prices are high most of the time, so that (on average) good money can also be made using sustainable energy. “As long as there are enough hours with reasonable production at attractive prices, the investments pay for it.”

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“But in the future, wind farms will probably bring in the most money if the winds are strong but not strong, and solar farms if the sky is a little cloudy, rather than clear blue.”

“A sunny day is a good time to do laundry”

Fluctuations in supply will not be a problem if electricity demand moves with it. This is why there are sounds of the night To cancel the off-peak rate, because nowadays it is better to use (extra) energy when the sun is shining. It will be more effective if consumers also Flexible electricity price Will push, which moves with the supply.

This particularly helps prevent potential overloading of local networks, says Ten Brink. “Washing clothes at home, vacuuming or baking bread when the sun is shining is a good idea.”

“It’s not about huge consumption, so it will have little impact on electricity prices, but it can only prevent solar panels in the area from going out on sunny days.”

Charging the batteries and heating while the power is high

To achieve greater impact, Ten Brink is looking at ways to link electricity consumption directly to supply. “For consumers, you should consider electric cars that charge automatically when the electricity is green and cheap, or electric boilers that actually produce hot water on a sunny afternoon for a shower the next morning.”

According to Ten Brink, this is also possible in the industry. “There, too, heat can be generated electrically, often at flexible times. The cleanest and cheapest option is to use electricity especially when the supply is high.”

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“Our dream solution is to produce hydrogen during peak periods of solar energy supply. However, investment costs for electrolyzers still have to be significantly reduced. They are still too high to restore fixtures in an sometimes sunny week with a few hours of Free energy.

Large-scale energy storage is the ultimate solution

As long as we continue to invest in sustainable technology, the solutions will also become more financially attractive. Ten Brink believes that the problems arising from the energy transition will largely solve themselves.

“In the end, we will always have days with very cheap electricity. If there are a few of them in a year, that is not really a problem for anyone. And if there are more, it is an incentive to invest in additional flexible use or in energy storage, and so the problem solves itself” .