My penultimate blog post celebrated the 10th anniversary of German feed-in rates for renewables, and one commentor had some interesting input. Rather than answer him at length with another comment, I wanted to share my thoughts with everyone here.
I brought up biomass because it does indeed have to do with electricity. In Germany, a not insignificant number of people have small cogeneration units in their homes (generally in the basement), and the new German law -- which I have to become familiar with before commenting on it in greater detail -- does seem to apply to biomass as well.
My principal contention is that the solar sector wants to have its cake and eat it, too. They were happy to receive rates above the retail rate for a decade or so, and now that the prices are going to dip below the retail rate, they want to switch to a different system in order to stay at the retail rate -- this even though all other forms of renewable energy were paid below the retail rate all along.
While you would be right to argue that large wind turbines are generally connected at the medium-voltage level and that therefore the retail rate should not apply, the same does not hold true for relatively small biomass units, nor does it hold true for small wind turbines.
That's what Germans need to understand. What the Anglo world (especially the US) needs to understand is that Germany is not switching to anything comparable to net-metering. FITs are still being offered for photovoltaics (and everything else), but now this new option -- "own consumption" or perhaps better translated as "internal consumption" -- is being emphasized.
The main purpose seems to be related to demand management -- you want to have people consume electricity when they generate it. That may seem to make sense at first glance, but in the case of photovoltaics it doesn't -- we are essentially encouraging people to consume more electricity when the most solar power is produced, which will unfortunately increase consumption during a period of peak demand in the early afternoon.
My gut feeling is that we need demand management at the level of the grid, not at the level of an individual household. But the German law is just now taking shape, and the changes have not gone into effect yet. I should be able to speak with a better understanding in a few months.