Thursday, February 4, 2010

German solar sector takes to the street

On a day when a general strike in part of the public sector (buses and trams did not run today in Freiburg, for instance) made headlines along with the German government's purchase of tax evasion data stolen from Swiss banks, the solar sector nonetheless managed to get into the hourly five-minute news updates on public television with a nationwide protest against the cuts being discussed.

The political picture is unclear. While Berlin's Solarpraxis somewhat optimistically entitled one report "FDP against drastic cuts in support for photovoltaics," the report merely states that some members of the German Libertarian Party think that a 25 percent arrays on farmland might be too much.

There is also talk of the cuts (scheduled for April 1 and July 1 for roof arrays and field arrays, respectively) being postponed slightly, but apparently the CDU -- the FDP's coalition partner -- would want to have considerably steeper cuts if the dates are moved back even one month. Figures of 17 and 18 percent (as opposed to 15 percent) are being tossed around as possible rate reductions for roof arrays if the cuts are moved back.

The only thing that seems certain right now is that no decision will be reached this week as originally expected when the cuts were announced two weeks ago. In fact, rates for solar power were not discussed this week at the Cabinet meeting, so the matter will have to be taken care of on February 9 and February 24.

Although the current governing coalition aims to have three gigawatts of solar per year, which is more than any country has ever installed in any four consecutive quarters (the figures are not yet in for Q4 2009 in Germany), Goldman Sachs has apparently decided that the proposed policy changes in Germany will detrimentally affect the global market. The investment bank downgraded REC, a major silicon manufacturer based in Norway, for instance, but has uprated manufacturers of production equipment -- probably under the assumption that manufacturers will be leaving Germany and needing to set up new production facilities in cheaper countries.

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