German solar fears levy impact

An overwhelming majority of German solar companies fear that a planned new levy on self-consumption will further push down new installation figures and destroy more jobs in the already battered solar industry in what until recently was the world’s largest PV market, a poll carried out by Germany’s industry federation BSW Solar finds. 

Energy minister Sigmar Gabriel in a draft for a reform of Germany’s Renewable Energies Act (EEG) wants to extend 70% of a renewables supplement (EEG Umlage) paid by power consumers on top of normal electricity prices to apply to power produced for self-consumption.

With the current level of the supplement, that would mean that producers have to pay €0.04 ($0.06) per kilowatt hour of electricity they produce for their own use.

Ninety per cent of solar businesses fear that Germany’s 2.5GW annual solar installation target will no longer be achieved once the levy on self-consumption kicks in, while 95% expect a loss of orders, and 82% think more solar jobs will be lost.

Repeated cuts to solar support and cheap Chinese competition have already destroyed half of the 130,000 jobs Germany’s solar sector once harboured, the BSW says.

“Instead of getting businesses to give up their plans to invest in a clean electricity production by the means of a renewables supplement, those responsible for the greenhouse effect should be asked to pay more,” says  BSW Solar managing director Carsten Körnig.

Home-owners with small rooftop PV installations are slated to be exempt from the levy, so it would hit mostly industries and other commercial users of self-produced PV power, a market segment that had been increasing lately as module prices have plummeted.

The cabinet in Berlin is slated to approve the EEG reform in early April, and Gabriel hopes to push it through parliament before the summer recess.