20 Mar 2019, 13:12
Benjamin Wehrmann

Major German solar power component maker Wacker bemoans high energy prices

ICIS / Reuters / Tagesspiegel Background

German chemicals producer Wacker has complained that rising energy prices caused by the progressing phase-out of nuclear and coal power are an increasing burden on its business that could make the major producer of silicon, a key solar panel component, unable to compete internationally. “The electricity costs borne by energy-intensive industries in this country must not climb any further,” Wacker Chemie CEO Rudolf Staudigl said in an article carried by the industry news service ICIS. Staudigl said Germany’s energy policy was “over-zealous” as it was vigorously pushing for a transition to renewable energy sources, but this “false notion of being a trailblazer” would “lead us astray.” The CEO said that while commissions had been set up for shutting down nuclear and coal, nobody had come up with a coherent plan to replace these energy sources.
According to an article carried by the news agency Reuters, the company’s falling earnings are also due to polysilicon overcapacities in China.
The energy policy newsletter Tagesspiegel Background called Wacker’s complaint “bizarre.” The company had been one of those benefitting the most from Germany’s energy transition, especially when the solar power market “temporarily spiralled out of control” and produced tremendous growth rates. “Parts of the billions (of euros) from Germany’s renewable energy support (EEG), which is  paid to operators of once overly supported installations to this day, have also found their way to [Wacker’s hometown] Burghausen.”

Despite its earnings in the renewable energy sector, Wacker has long been a vocal critic of Germany’s energy transition. Energy prices in Germany are among the highest in Europe, partly due to the surcharge customers pay with their power bill to finance the expansion of renewable energy sources. However, many energy-intensive companies enjoy rebates on their power bill, which allows them to acquire electricity at much lower costs. The effects of Germany’s planned coal exit on power prices are heavily disputed. Industry representatives warn that energy prices will rise and this will damage companies that have to compete, while others argue that an ambitious and steady expansion of renewable energy sources can reduce wholesale power prices.

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