Intersolar 2015: ‘Sad’ German PV market set to miss target again in 2015

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Germany’s PV market looks set to undershoot its annual target again this year, possibly failing to reach even 1.5GW, according to David Wedepohl, the director of communications and markets at the country’s solar association, BSW-Solar.

Outlining what he described as the “rather sad picture of the German market at the moment” at the first day of Intersolar Europe 2015, Wedepohl said political efforts to slow the market down would see Germany miss out on its 2.6GW target for 2015.

It would be the second year running that feed-in tariff degressions and other policy changes have conspired to shrink the once-world-leading German PV market, which at its height managed 7.6GW in one year.

“The government has set a goal, and set it down from 3.5GW to 2.6GW per year. We missed that goal last year; we’re going to miss it big time this year,” said Wedepohl. “We’re definitely going to stay under 1.5GW this year, and that after the slump we have seen in the last [year].”

The causes of Germany’s decline are what Wedepohl said were “politically motivated” manoeuvres to “shrink the market”. The two main policy-level changes have been an incremental degression of the country’s feed-in tariff, which have effectively killed off the ground-mount sector, and more recently a surcharge on the self-consumption of PV electricity, which is acting as a deterrent to businesses looking to invest in PV to offset rising energy bills.

But on a more positive note Wedepohl said Germany was still relevant because it was a “pioneer market” with a large cumulative PV capacity that now accounted for some 7% of total generation.

“So all of the important things that we talk about, the discussions we have – about how to set up the energy system, how to do an energy transition towards all renewable sources on a systemic scale in an industrial country  these will be answered in this market first.”

He said Germany’s role now was as a “guinea pig” to test emerging technologies such as electrical energy storage and new procurement processes such as project tendering. Germany has just completed its first open tender for PV projects in a 150MW trial round that will be followed further by rounds expected to put 1.2GW out to bidding.

On storage Wedepohl said a significant number of systems were now being deployed particularly at a residential level in conjunction with PV systems.

Importantly, he said the price of storage systems was now coming down sharply – by some 25% since last year. “This is really, really interesting because it becomes economically feasible to use storage,” he said.

Looking to Germany’s future as a PV market, Wedepohl said he was “cautiously optimistic”.

“We all know that not all guinea pigs used in such experiments are going to be very healthy, but we hope to recover from that and I’m pretty certain in the midterm, because of the experience here and because of the great companies in this market, that the prospects in this market are bright. It won’t be a boom like we have seen, but I think we can be cautiously optimistic for this market.”

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