03 Jul 2024, 13:25
Jack McGovan

Germany's tenant electricity scheme leaves vast solar PV potential untapped - report

Clean Energy Wire / PV Magazine

There are too few installations of solar panels on the roofs of apartment buildings across Germany, making rental homes an underutilised source for renewable energy generation, according to a new report by the German Economic Institute (IW) in Cologne. The report found that 14.3 million rented properties, covering 1.9 million buildings, could in theory benefit from tenant electricity models, reports PV magazine. In 2017, the economy and climate ministry (BMWK) commissioned an assessment of the potential of solar installations on rented properties and found 370,000 were suitable. Currently, however, only a fraction of this potential has been tapped. As of April 2024, there were only 9,000 photovoltaic systems on apartment buildings in Germany. Reasons given include a lack of economic viability and bureaucratic processes.

In existing homes, it’s often not possible to install smart meters that can differentiate between solar power from a roof installation and grid electricity, reports PV magazine. Even in cases where this is possible, the scope and costs of conversion measures often prevent installations. Developers also can’t be certain how many tenants would participate in a tenant electricity project. One solution the authors of the report suggest is to make it an opt-out system, where tenants automatically become customers unless they personally object. They suggest this because if participation rates are too low, the project might not economically viable. If all apartment buildings were to be kitted out with photovoltaic systems, PV magazine reports that an additional 43 terawatt hours (TWh) of energy could be generated every year. In 2023, all photovoltaic systems across Germany generated 61 TWh.

Earlier this year, the German coalition government agreed to measures to speed up the expansion of solar energy, for example by easing rules around small balcony photovoltaic systems. These measures were welcomed by the solar industry, though some expressed concern at the lack of a “resilience bonus” for systems bought from German and European companies. By 2030, the government aims to achieve a total solar power capacity of 215 gigawatts.

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