Regulator reveals ‘intense competition’ in oversubscribed German PV auction

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Germany’s first ever PV tender process for ground mounted installations saw “intense competition” from a large number of bidders, according to the country’s federal regulator.

The Bundesnetzagentur (BNetzA) this morning put out an official confirmation of some of the details of the auction, including prices and an admission that the tenders were oversubscribed four times over.

Part of a plan to cap the market size of the ground mount segment to 1.2GW over three years, bids were received in the middle of this month with BNetzA awarding just 150MW for ground mount projects this year, limited to 10MW capacity maximum per project.

Reports had emerged earlier this week that government minister Rainer Baake, deputy to the economy and energy minister Sigmar Gabriel, had given a meeting of German engineering association VDMA an idea of the prices. These were confirmed today by BNetzA, which said prices averaged out to 9.17 Eurocents (US$0.1) per kWh for project bids, with the proposed project sizes averaging out at around 6.3MW capacity each.

Yesterday, German solar trade association BSW Solar told PV Tech that limiting the development of ground mount solar seemed a missed opportunity, with ground mount solar projects now competitive with coal on price at some scales.

BNetzA president Jochen Homann said the large number of bids was “testament to the intense competition for funding authorisations for photovoltaic ground-mounted systems”. The regulator revealed that from over 700MW of prospects across 170 bids, only 25 solar parks will be built to make up the 150MW cap.

BSW Solar spokesman David Wedepohl said yesterday ahead of the announcement that while it was obviously good that there was this reported interest in building projects, he felt the whole process was “unnecessarily limiting open field installations” to 1.2GW in three years.

“We could do a lot more without doing any harm. We would strongly encourage the government to do so,” Wedepohl said.

This morning, the organisation’s head, Carsten Kornig, said in a statement that the high level of participation showed a “great willingness to invest in photovoltaics,” while the prices showed the low cost of climate-friendly generation technology.

Kornig said it was “regrettable” that only a fraction of the bids could go through, despite the very reasonable prices offered by many of the bidders. The BSW Solar CEO said that questions still remained over the process and PV Tech expects to hear more from the association soon.

A report from German think tank Agora Energiewende published in February pointed out that electricity from new coal and gas fired power plants in Germany ranges in price from around 5 to 10 Eurocents (US$0.05 to US$0.1) per kWh, while nuclear generated electricity can cost as much as 11 Eurocents per kWh. Coincidentally, Rainer Baake is a former director of Agora Energiewende, as well as a member of the German Green Party.

Elsewhere in Europe, large-scale solar in the UK also appears to be under strict limitations to its development. Support will no longer be offered under the popular Renewable Obligation Certificate (ROC) scheme for solar farms over 5MW capacity. Instead, the first round of auctions was held this year under the so-called Contracts for Difference (CfDs), which forced renewable across a range of technologies including wind and solar to compete against one another for a centralised pot of funding. Only a few ground mount solar projects were successful, at a ‘strike price’ of £0.079, around US$0.12, per kWh.

BNetzA’s statement on the tender can be found here (in German), as well as further details of specific bids.

This article has been amended to reflect that Carsten Kornig is CEO, not president, of BSW Solar.

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