Fending off, nudging and keeping things small has become such a habit in German energy policy that it is still carried out when there is nothing to fend off, nudge or keep down. With wind farms on land or new power lines, it is understandable that the benefits for the climate must be weighed against the interference with nature and the interests of the residents. But with photovoltaics?
- The times of excessive feed-in tariffs have been over for more than a decade with solar power. In tenders for ground-mounted systems, solar power can be had for around 5 to 6 cents. The argument with the electricity price is no longer an issue.
- The load on the power grid is kept within limits – photovoltaics can be installed anywhere in Germany close to consumers. And it feeds in most of the daytime when demand is greatest.
- The rooftop systems also do not consume valuable space. All over the republic there are still plenty of flat roofs on supermarkets, warehouses or logistics centers, as you can easily see on satellite images of any commercial area. And have you ever heard of a citizens’ initiative against solar modules on flat roofs? So what is Federal Minister of Economics Peter Altmaier afraid of?
The fear of an uncontrolled spread of renewables has probably already seeped so deeply into the DNA of the Federal Ministry of Economics that the associated control obligation is, so to speak, running on autopilot. There is no other way of explaining the bizarre regulations that exist for the roof-top system between 300 and 750 kilowatts, for example. “The solar power from these systems is only remunerated to 50 percent with the market premium,” writes that pv-magazin about the most recent EEG amendment that came into force at the beginning of April. “You will only receive the full market premium if you can secure a bid in the tenders, but then you can no longer use photovoltaics yourself.” (The market premium compensates for the difference to the feed-in tariff if the operator markets his electricity directly.)
Not enough with the fact that this whole construct of feed-in tariffs, market premiums, tenders, exceptions and special regulations has grown into a downright bizarre complexity. In addition, they allow a completely arbitrary intervention in the extension. According to pv-magazin, only 300 megawatts of tenders are planned for this segment. In 2020, 780 megawatts were added.
Erratic funding policy
So while it is completely obvious that Germany has to massively accelerate the expansion of renewables in order to achieve its climate targets (set by the incumbent federal government itself), the same government is reducing an important segment by half – without it being clear which one Collateral damage is supposed to be prevented with it. In any case, medium-sized PV systems on commercial buildings do not cause excessively high electricity costs, space consumption or loads on the power grid.
Gregor Honsel has been the TR editor since 2006. He believes that many complex problems have simple, easy-to-understand, but wrong solutions.
Gregor Honsel bei Technology Review
Altmaier probably believes that production costs will fall by themselves if you just tighten the thumbscrews enough. Conversely, however, it is precisely an erratic funding policy that increases the financing risk and thus the costs. In this way, he messes up two goals at once: cheap electricity and appropriate expansion.