Based in Germany, Sebastian focuses on relationships with policy-makers in Europe and discussions about the continent’s bright potential for a low-carbon future. As Vice Chairman of the Policy Working Group of the European Photovoltaic Industry Association (EPIA), he helps the industry to speak with one voice.
In Germany we will likely install about 8 gigawatts (GW) of new solar systems by the end of this year, meaning Germany will double its market compared to 2009 and hence would follow the worldwide trend (the world market in 2009 was 7.5 GW and 2010 is predicted to be about 14.7 GW).
In a perfect world we would be confident in these numbers and projections, but the situation is much more complex. The following are my thoughts on factors that could impact the solar industry in Germany in the coming year.
The renewable energy sector, and the solar photovoltaics industry in particular, lost a great leader on Thursday, October 14. Hermann Scheer, winner of the Alternative Nobel Prize, and mentor and champion of the solar photovoltaics industry, died unexpectedly in Berlin at the age of 66.
Italy has become the latest European country to introduce cuts to their solar photovoltaic (PV) energy subsidy. In a move that will certainly upset the industry and put its development in peril, the Italian government has recently made it official that the country’s feed-in tariff program will be subject to 18 to 20% cuts as of 2011, a figure that will be increased by 6% in each of the following two years. Hence Italy joins the long list of European Union (EU) Member States that in the last few months have seen their financial support to the solar industry reduced in the context of the austerity measures that are currently being pushed through.
Despite the fact that Germany has far fewer renewable energy resources than the U.S., Berlin is surging ahead of Washington in terms of green job creation. In just the last eight years, Germany has generated 300,000 jobs in the renewable energy sector (their fastest-growing in fact), while the U.S. has struggled to keep the renewable energy jobs it does have from being outsourced. Which begs the question: how did a country that has fewer sunny days per year than Seattle become such a clean energy powerhouse? In a word, policy.
The Spanish government has recently brought forward rather contradictory policy developments concerning renewable energy sources (RES). On the one hand, the Industry Ministry has presented the country’s National Renewable Energy Action Plan. It foresees that, by 2020, 22.7% of the country’s final energy consumption will come from renewable sources. This is great news, considering that Spain’s RES European Union (EU) target is 20%. On the other hand, the government announced soon after that it would introduce retroactive cuts in the feed-in tariff program for the photovoltaic (PV) industry in the context of the austerity measures the country is currently undergoing.
Earlier this month, I attended the world’s largest exhibition for the solar industry, Intersolar Europe, which reflects the dynamic developments along the entire value added chain in the areas of photovoltaics (PV) and solar thermal technology. Under the principle of connecting solar businesses, Intersolar brings together solar industry manufacturers, suppliers, institutes and associations, many of which use this time to discuss industry trends and challenges.
The European Climate Foundation (ECF) has just published a ground-breaking study put forth by McKinsey. Conducted in consultation with corporations and other organizations from the renewable and electricity sectors, it explores options for a carbon-free European power sector by 2050. The study outlines plausible ways to achieve an 80% emissions reduction target compared with 1990 levels from a broad European perspective. Such a power supply could be realized by further developing and deploying technologies that are already commercially available or in late stage development, and by expanding the trans-European transmission grid. The study calls for collective action before 2015 as a prerequisite, starting with electricity decarbonization.
The German government coalition recently made a cabinet decision to cut back support of PV solar electricity funding. Consequently, solar power plants may be promoted significantly less in the future. Despite major concessions from the industry, the reduction of the solar feed-in tariff (FiT) is considered drastic, although the actual relief for electricity customers will only be marginally affected for the time being.