German Utilities Pay Power Users as Warm, Windy Christmas Looms

Day-ahead power in Germany turned negative for the first time in at least five years as utilities prefer to pay users rather than halt plants amid low demand, mild temperatures and higher-than-average wind generation.

Baseload next-day power, for supplies delivered around the clock, fell as low as minus 15 euros (minus $19.84) a megawatt-hour, compared with 22 euros a megawatt-hour on Dec. 21 for power delivered today, according to broker data compiled by Bloomberg. That’s the first time the day-ahead contract has been negative since Bloomberg started collecting the data in 2007.

Germany seeks to generate more than a third of its electricity from renewables as the country exits nuclear energy. Utilities including EON SE and RWE AG may prefer to pay users rather than halt fossil fuel-fed plants when turbines and solar cells push power supply above demand.

“Operators may just decide to accept that they are giving away power and money during the Christmas week for a few hours rather than putting up with even higher costs for switching their units off,” Juergen Rogalla, head of power plant operations at Stadtwerke Bielefeld GmbH, a regional utility supplying 280,000 households with power and gas, said Dec. 21.

Wind output in Germany is predicted to rise to about 15 gigawatts tomorrow, Meteologica SA, a Madrid-based weather forecaster, said on its website. That compares with an average level of 5 gigawatts, according to data from Leipzig, Germany-based European Energy Exchange AG on Bloomberg.

Hourly Prices

The maximum temperature in Frankfurt tomorrow will be 10 degrees Celsius (50 Fahrenheit) versus a five-year average of 3 degrees, CustomWeather Inc. data show. The nation can expect “exceptionally mild weather,” according to a forecast by Deutscher Wetterdienst.

Renewable power use rose 8 percent this year, boosting its share to 12 percent of total consumption, according to preliminary data from Arbeitsgemeinschaft Energiebilanzen e.V., an industry lobby.

Intraday trading has increased in Germany as renewable energy creates more variability in the supply, and sources, of electricity throughout the day. Hourly prices have been negative depending on how much capacity is available when renewable generation peaks and there’s a surplus of power.

“Negative prices are not so much of an issue for traders who are used to negative within-day prices and know the risks,” Mark Owen-Lloyd, co-founder of Leap Trading Ltd., said today by e-mail.

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