Electricity Prices in France Just Turned Negative Because of Renewables

Upside Down Energy

Energy prices in France turned negative following a surge in renewable output last week, causing a number of nuclear reactors to shut down in response.

As Bloomberg reports, consumption dropped considerably, with blasting sunshine and strong winds causing solar and wind generation to flood the grid with green energy.

While that may sound like an overwhelmingly good thing, much of this power ends up not being used, because battery storage capabilities have lagged behind renewable generation facilities. And not just in France — much of the continent has struggled to hold on to the wealth of renewable energy it's producing.

Worse yet, as some experts have pointed out, negative energy prices could turn away investors, which could further slow the development of energy storage systems.

Earth, Wind, and Fiery Sun

Negative energy prices are becoming increasingly common thanks to favorable weather and large-capacity renewable energy production. California is experiencing negative prices thanks to a glut of solar energy, and Germany has similarly seen prices dip below zero.

In France, it's not just nuclear reactors that shut down in response. Even some renewable energy producers slowed down energy generation to avoid having to pay a fee as a result of negative prices, according to Bloomberg.

In short, while it's a windfall for the environment — an energy watchdog predicted last week that global oil demand will peak in 2029 — negative prices are also a symptom of storage solutions struggling to even out power availability over time.

Complicating matters, France's renewable energy providers are wary of the country over-relying on nuclear power as well. France has fallen considerably behind its neighbors when it comes to solar and wind capacity, Reuters reports. Almost 65 percent of its power came from nuclear last year.

"France must contribute to the European energy system by developing, alongside nuclear power, renewable energy sources which have demonstrated their strengths and competitiveness and will be essential, taking into account the cost and timetable for deploying new nuclear power," France's largest wind farm operator Engie said in a statement, as quoted by Reuters.

More on renewables: Capitalists Alarmed as Renewables Keep Making Electricity Temporarily Free