German solar industry unites to fight FiT cuts

At 1pm local time Monday March 5, thousands, including employees from around 50 solar companies, will converge in Berlin at the Brandeburger Tor to protest against harsh cuts to the proposed feed-in tariff legislation. They are united under the banner of the country’s Federal Solar Industry Association BSW-Solar: “No clear-cutting for the backing of solar energy – only more solar electricity can bring the energy turnaround”.

The government plans to cut subsidies by as much as 29% from March 9, with monthly reductions to start in May. The controversy however, is that ministers will be given powers to make amendments without the need to consult parliament, if installations exceed the government target of 2,500 to 3,500MW a year, claiming this would encourage flexibility. The German solar industry disagrees believing it will create a lack of security and transparency. From July 1, plants larger than 10MW will not receive any subsidies. The government’s target range is 2500 – 3500MW this year, to be reduced annually by 400MW.

At a rally yesterday, attended by about 300 people from the German solar industry, the head of BSW-Solar, Carston Koernig expressed his concerns: “The revisions are dangerous as it would destroy investment security and may be expanded to subsidies for wind and biomass”.

Communications officer at abakus solar, Katrin Schnelle, has high hopes for this Monday’s demonstrations: “We definitely believe that it is our responsibility in a democratic system to utter as much protest as we can. We hope we can raise the maximum amount of public awareness concerning this problem to either reverse these decisions or at the very least attenuate them”.

The company believes a market downturn is inevitable if the revised EEG is passed. Founding shareholder, Heiner Bruer, said, "This drastic reduction, both economically and in terms of the federal government attempting to meet its energy objectives, is totally wrong.”

Solar systems supplier, Conergy, states few EU member states have achieved as much as Germany has within the energy industry. The political framework in place makes the country attractive to foreign investors. Conergy said in a statement to the press: “The reduction of the solar subsidies is a reaction to the recent price decrease is comprehensible to us”. The statement continued: “The extreme short-term nature, however, with which the government currently plans to put the reductions into effect is very problematic to the entire industry. It does not offer companies any reliable planning security or the opportunity to gear oneself up for the new, modified setup and market environment.”

The proposal will be discussed in parliament this week, with the first reading of the revised EEG Bill to take place on March 8. On March 21, there will be a public hearing and consultation by the Ecology Committee, who will present its decision on March 28. Second and third readings will take place during the final days of March. The industry hopes reservations from the representatives from Germany’s 16 federal states will help to discourage the implementation of this contentious legislation.

Update:

First Solar have released a statement this afternoon offering its support to the German solar industry:

"We act on the assumption that the protest of the solar industry will provoke a positive effect. In particular we will remind the federal government of the protection of reliance to existing laws for large-scale photovoltaic installations. Moreover, we want to highlight that a size limit for free field installations is unacceptable. In addition, the drastic reduction of the feed-in-tariff on large-scale photovoltaic is not conducive to the transformation of the energy system in Germany."

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