GlobalPost, Feb. 20, 2012
With a total of about 25 gigawatts of installed panels, Germany now has half of the world’s entire solar energy capacity.
An unprecedented 7.5 gigawatts of panels were added to the country’s energy system in 2011, twice the government’s target.
One would think that for a country firmly committed to ambitious targets for renewable energy and emissions reductions, this would be a good thing. Instead, politicians in Berlin are furiously negotiating to find a way to slow down this rapid expansion, due to the huge costs involved in paying for solar power.
Two ministries in Berlin have been at loggerheads over their different priorities in tackling the problem. While Economics Minister Philipp Roesler, leader of the Free Democrats, wants to make the energy costs cheaper, the Environment Ministry, headed by Norbert Roettgen, a member of Chancellor Angela Merkel’s Christian Democrats has to balance economic interests with Germany’s climate goals.
Solar, it appears, will be the likely loser, as both ministries foresee less support for the industry in the future.
The current debate is focused on the solar subsidies that are largely paid for out of consumers’ pockets.
Critics argue that the costs have shot up, as solar expanded from just 1 percent of energy in 2009 to 3.5 percent in 2011. It’s on target to rise as much as 4.5 percent this year. This expansion is pushing up energy costs in general for the German economy.
Supporters say prices are already starting to fall, that the majority of expenses have already been invested. They say that support for the industry needs to be maintained now more than ever. Continue reading