German coalition’s self-consumption charge will ‘set PV industry back years’

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The coalition deal struck between Angela Merkel’s union of conservative parties and the centre-left SPD includes a surcharge on self-consumed electricity. While feed-in tariff (FiT) provisions will remain the same for PV generated electricity, the agreement, which still requires the approval of around 470,000 SPD members via a referendum in December, will mean that fees will have to be paid by off-grid consumers of self-generated electricity.

The German Solar Industry Association (BSW-Solar) released a statement in reaction to news of the coalition agreement. Regarding a levy on self-consumption, BSW-Solar said it would “turn the ‘polluter pays’ principle on its head and set back the competitiveness of the photovoltaic industry by years”.

BSW-Solar’s statement also expressed dissatisfaction with coalition targets for renewable energy generation and the presence of an upper and lower ‘bandwidth’ for the percentage of the overall energy mix to come from renewables, calling it a “big missed opportunity”. BSW-Solar quoted a pre-election survey that said 93% of the German population wanted the country to make a rapid transition to renewable energy generation.

German Renewable Energy Association (BEE) spokesman Daniel Kluge told PV Tech that German government policy regarding solar power would remain a “dynamic process” whereby FiTs are lowered gradually in line with the amount of added PV generation capacity. However, with the levying of a surcharge, ‘Eigenverbrauch’ (self-consumption) would be treated differently to grid connected solar. Kluge said the issue of how the self-consumption issue was managed in the renewable energy laws once the government was established would be the most important point for solar energy.

Kluge said that due to the lack of concrete details it would not be possible for BEE to comment as yet on the appropriateness of such charges. Kluge did express concern that the speed of introduction of renewable energy sources will be decreased due to the establishment of goals for how many renewables can be built in the coming years. Kluge said the upper targets set would mean that the speed at which renewable energy generation capacity was introduced would slow down.

BEE will try to positively influence the negotiations about renewable energy laws, Kluge said. This weekend the organisation will hold a demonstration in Berlin, along with various NGOs and renewable energy companies to “send a clear sign to the new government to prevent them from slowing down too much from the Energiewende (‘Energy Transition’)”. BEE hopes as many as 10,000 people could attend the protest.

Frauke Thies, policy director at the European Photovoltaic Industry Association (EPIA), said that she was not yet able to comment on the portion of the agreement relating to self-consumption laws. However, in contrast to Kluge, Thies said that EPIA was pleased that the German government appeared ready to commit itself to the achievement of “legally binding targets on renewable energy, the climate and energy efficiency on the EU-level. We are particularly pleased because we feel that a binding renewables target for 2030 is essential to drive the necessary adjustments in the market to make renewables successful and sustainable in the long run”.

National targets set by the German coalition agreement for renewable energy’s share of electricity generation by 2035 have a ‘bandwidth’ of between 55% and 60%.

Thies said this “didn’t look too bad” as a percentage when put into the context that EPIA have recommended for a target of 45% to come from renewables by 2030 across the EU. However, Thies explained that it is very difficult to draw a clear comparison across the two sets of targets as an EU-wide target would involve balancing differing supply and demand levels for each member country, while also taking into account the different end-years of each target. Thies said it was “very good to see that Germany has set itself targets for itself and to push for targets on a European level”.

The EU Commission funded EU PV Parity Project published a report this week advocating better support for self-consuming PV energy generators.

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