German solar industry trade association BSW-Solar is considering taking legal action over reforms to the German Renewable Energy Act (EEG), announced yesterday. The reforms, which will charge a levy on self-consumption of PV generated electricity while exempting heavy industry from the same charges, have been strongly criticised.

Sigmar Gabriel, Germany’s minister for energy and the economy announced the changes after a deliberation process which has been ongoing since the latest coalition government was sworn in. The long-awaited reforms, which were always thought to include the levying of surcharges on self-consumption as well as the exemption for energy intensive industries, were nonetheless greeted with dismay.

German PV industry group BSW Solar also “sharply criticised” the reforms. Spokesman David Wedepohl told PV Tech that the organisation was considering taking legal action against what it described as “this impediment to the further expansion of solar energy”. The group originally put forward the idea of a legal challenge as the reforms were being discussed but has now reiterated that threat.

Wedepohl said that in the view of BSW Solar, the cost of moving Germany’s energy industry away from coal and nuclear should be more widely distributed and that a “more significant financial contribution” should come from fossil-fuel based industries than the reforms allowed for.

Wedepohl concluded by saying that “…to penalise environmentally friendly producers of solar power, of all people, and to have them pay for the costs of the Energiewende, is the wrong approach altogether and is also counterproductive. This would be analogous to charging private gardeners a tax for the vegetables they harvest themselves.”

The revised EEG will allow for a levy to be applied on self-consumption of electricity for PV systems over 10kW while exempting consumers that generate more than 10MWh per year. While this means that the average individual homeowner with a rooftop PV system will be exempted, groups including the German Renewable Energy Federation (BEE), have condemned this aspect of the plan, arguing that the 10kW limit is too low.

In a statement translated from German and sent to PV Tech by BEE, the organisation’s managing director Herman Falk said the plan “hinders innovative models for the supply of multi-family houses or supermarkets with clean power”. According to Falk, the commercial rooftop segment of the German PV industry would be badly hit in particular. Owners of plants over 10kW in size will have to pay 40% of the EEG surcharge rate.

The reforms also call for the mandatory direct marketing of electricity generated from renewable sources onto the wholesale electricity market. BEE, which represents the interests of more than 5,000 companies, also criticised this aspect as well as lowered national biogas generation targets. BEE said that “overall, this was a bad day for climate protection” ading that the lowered biogas targets would increase Germany’s dependence on gas imported from Russia.

The European Photovoltaic Industry Association (EPIA) also wieghed in to the argument. Alexandre Roesch, head of regulatory affairs at the organisation, told PV Tech:

"The final outcome of such legislative process still remains unclear, but what is clear is that this ongoing uncertainty and this succession of turnarounds creates and nourishes a negative climate for investments, which impacts the development of PV in Germany.

"We hope that the German Parliament will agree on a reasonable text that adopts a balanced attitude towards self-consumption of PV electricity. PV self-consumption is a promising solution that can bring many benefits to grid operators and society as a whole. It should be supported and favourable regulatory frameworks should be developed and implemented," Roesch said.

In a recent interview with PV Tech at Intersolar Europe, Luc Graré of REC Group said he felt it was a "pity" that German energy reforms were being used for political point scoring by "certain politicians".

Originally the appointment of Sigmar Gabriel, the centre-left leader of coalition partner party SPD as energy and economy minister and the appointment of his deputy Rainer Baake, a Green Party politician, had been greeted with cautious optimism by some in the renewable energy industry. 

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