German solar sore as surcharge stays

Germany’s solar sector is dismayed that a compromise between Chancellor Angela Merkel and state premiers reached yesterday over a reform of the country’s Renewable Energies Act (EEG) apparently continues to include a new levy on self-consumption that would hit PV particularly hard.

Following pressure from Northern German coastal states, the federal government had softened a cap on new onshore wind developments and made cuts to feed-in support less harsh.

The solar sector, already hit by years of steep cuts to FIT support and in manufacturing by cheap Chinese competition, doesn’t seem to enjoy such strong political backing among states, however.

According to the reform plans, commercial users of self-produced electricity will have to pay a surcharge to finance the expansion of renewables (EEG surcharge) at least partially as of August 1, 2014, translating into a levy of €0.044 per kilowatt hour of self-consumed energy, the German solar industry federation BSW Solar says.

Tenants in buildings with solar roofs will even have to pay the full EEG surcharge of currently €0.062 per MWh, the BSW claims.

“The self-consumption of solar power is an important and cheap driver of the Energiewende and because of that should continue exempt from the EEG surcharge,” says BSW managing director Carsten Körnig.

“Otherwise the already strong market collapse in PV will continue with all its negative consequences for jobs in the solar sector.”

Some 50,000 jobs are at stake, the BSW claims. The group adds that businesses in trade, commerce and services last year accounted for half of all PV investments in Germany.

Germany’s renewable energies federation BEE said that while it welcomes the compromise for onshore wind, the levy on self-consumption and an extremely low annual cap of 100MW for new bio energy installations threatens the renewables sector.

Biomass based energy lessens the country’s dependency on fossil fuel imports from politically unstable nations, BEE managing director Hermann Falk stressed.

The BEE also criticised a planned introduction of tenders for renewable projects from 2017 on, and a stipulation to force even small energy producers to sell their electricity directly at wholesale power markets in the future.