German solar industry soars despite coronavirus but support cap awaits
Handelsblatt / pv magazine / Clean Energy Wire
The first three months of 2020 have surpassed all expectations for Germany's solar industry, despite the coronavirus crisis, write Kathrin Witsch and Klaus Stratmann in Handelsblatt. PV module manufacturer Solarwatt saw sales rise by 60 percent compared to the first quarter of last year. A cap limiting government support for new solar PV installations to a total capacity of 52 gigawatts (GW) is threatening the otherwise thriving industry, however. Although large-scale solar projects are becoming increasingly profitable even without government support, uncertainty about the cap is limiting planning security, while roof-mounted systems, which are not yet as profitable, would be hit, according to the report. Industry association BSW Solar has warned that more than a thousand jobs could be lost if no action is taken.
A removal of the solar cap was announced as part of the government's climate action plan but it has not yet been implemented. The topic is part of a larger policy package which has been discussed for months. The Green Party criticised the government’s "delay tactics", writes pv magazine. Johann Saathoff, a member of government coalition party SPD, has proposed decoupling the decision from other questions about renewable energies.
At the end of February, Germany's solar PV installations supported under the Renewable Energy Act (EEG) reached a combined capacity of about 50 GW. A position paper by Germany's Association of Energy Market Innovators (BNE) nevertheless proposes raising this twentyfold to 1,000 GW by 2050. "In terms of both space requirements and grid capacities, it is essential to generate the largest possible share of solar power on and around buildings, to consume it directly and to store it temporarily," the position paper states. Furthermore, by installing solar PV systems in areas currently used for cultivating energy crops, 30 times more energy could be harnessed, the BNE points out, noting that using just a share of this space would generate vast amounts of solar power.