Germany’s energy minister Sigmar Gabriel has said he may be willing to compromise on the amount of a proposed surcharge on residential self-consumption of solar electricity.

However, Gabriel also said that the surcharges remain likely to be put into effect, with only the amount levied open for discussion. Gabriel said that in his opinion, Germany’s Energiewende (‘energy transition’) will fail if energy prices continue to rise.

In addition to the proposed surcharge, equivalent to 70% of what PV users would have paid if only using power from the grid, other changes to the country’s energy laws will exempt some energy intensive industries from paying more than around 20% of the charge.

Gabriel’s position emerged following a visit to the facility of German inverter maker SMA Solar Technology in Hesse, Germany, to discuss the issue of changes to the country’s renewable energy sources act (EEG).

At the event, SMA chief executive officer Pierre-Pascal Urbon and general manager Dr Günther Häckl called on Gabriel to reconsider the surcharges, which have been strongly criticised by German solar industry figures and trade bodies.

Urbon talked about the need for the German solar industry to maintain its “leading role” and said a “bold and forward-thinking policy” is required. Urbon went on to say that the industry needed support to continue research into cost reduction and remain competitive with Asia.

Häckl talked about the importance of allowing self-consumption of energy and called it the “vanguard of the flexibilised energy system of the future”. He discussed a possible threat to jobs and said innovative projects such as smart grid design could be negatively affected.

SMA spokeswoman Susanne Henkel told PV Tech via telephone earlier today the company believes the future of the Energiewende could be threatened by the surcharge policy.

Henkel went on to say that although the company felt strongly about the issue, as a global presence with 70% of its sales outside Germany, SMA was unlikely to be badly hit. Henkel pointed out however that smaller companies including installers and others in the downstream space in Germany were likely to be most affected by the change.

Details of the reasoning for Sigmar Gabriel’s defence of the surcharge on self-consumption PV users have not been made public beyond his argument above that electricity prices will continue rise, threatening the entire Energiewende.

Some commentators privately believe an argument has been put forward that self-consumption of PV generated electricity is considered ‘anti-social’ by some sectors of German government.

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