Monday, September 28, 2009

Update on changes in German solar rates

Now that it seems clear that Germany will have a new coalition between the CDU and FDP (the two parties least supportive of renewables), it is interesting to recap some of the facts. Spiegel online has published some additional comments in German (I could not find this text in English) about the future of solar rates under the new German government. Even parties on the left clearly support a reduction in the rate for solar in light of plummeting prices. The spokesperson for the Greens (Hans-Josef fell, one of the architects behind the legislation) put it this way:

"Die Einspeisevergütungen sollten sich an der Entwicklung der Solarstromkosten orientieren, die sich insbesondere am Marktwachstum ablesen lässt"

("The rates paid should be based on the current cost of solar power, which can be clearly seen from market growth" -- actually, the cost can be seen clearly from the cost of modules, not necessarily from market growth, but whatever)

And Germany's former (until today) Environmental Minister is quoted as saying that the rates for solar could even be reduced by the end of the year.

At the same time, Schott Solar has told Berlin's Solarpraxis (again, in German) that a number of companies are working with the German government on a revision of the rates paid for solar. Interestingly, Solarpraxis reports that "the focus is on equal treatment with Chinese competition" ("Dabei gehe es vor allem darum, eine Gleichbehandlung gegenüber der chinesischen Konkurrenz zu erreichen..."). Under Chinese law, systems that receive special compensation have to be 70 percent domestic; similar requirements are found in legislation all over the world, including Canada and the US, but Germany has never had such requirements in its renewables policy.

Schott Solar also said it was concerned about the entire debate being sold as questioning the principle of feed-in rates themselves. Indeed, Spiegel Online is guilty of causing some of the confusion itself. Statements like "das Erneuerbare-Energien-Gesetz wackelt" (the Renewable Energy Act may topple) and "Inzwischen aber wächst die Kritik am aktuellen Fördergesetz parteiübergreifend" (Now, criticism of the current law is growing in all parties) are completely misleading; actually, all five political parties represented in the Bundestag support feed-in rates. People are talking about changing a single rate in the law -- the one for solar -- not the principle behind the law, and not any of the other rates for other renewable sources (wind, biomass, etc.).

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