With over 50 percent of the European Union (EU) solar capacity installed in Germany, more than 3.4 million households receive electricity generated from solar-powered plants. The country has been the undisputed global leader for photovoltaic development with over 17,193 MW of installed capacity. Spain is next with 3,784, followed by Italy at 3,494 MW. More than any other country, Germany has movedthe closest toward achieving grid parity.
Even with this impressive achievement, many solar industry watchers seemed uncertain if Germany would continue its impressive annual rate of PV installations after it completed a revision of its renewable energy policy. The ten-year run catapulted the country into the number one position for solar energy installed capacity worldwide.
Then, along came the Fukushima nuclear disaster, and subsequently, Germany's historic decision to switch all nuclear power plant off by 2022.
On June 30, Germany's House of Commons passed the revisions for the Erneuerbare-Energien-Gesetz (EEG) German for the “Renewable Energy Sources Act.” About a week later, the revised Act finally became law when the Bundesrat, Germany's upper chamber of parliament, made the ACT law with its approval.
The Erneuerbare-Energien-Gesetz will continue as a global model for renewable energy policies developed by local, state and national governments across the globe.
In 1991, Germany passed the Electricity Feed Act 1991.However, this policy only led to progress in the hydropower and wind energy sectors. The EEG was different because it focused on launching all renewable energies.The EEG became the law of the land on April 1, 2000.
Many consider the current spokesperson for the Ministry of Energy, Hans-Josef Fell, the “father” of the country's first national renewable energy law. Fell was actually a research policy spokesperson for the Bündnis 90/The Greens, a “green” political party in Germany.
In 1993, Fell served as a city council member in Hamelburg - his hometown located in the northern Lower Franconia. He started a cost-covering payment scheme for solar-generated electricity. The success of the initiative convinced Fell that the model could address climate change issues and enhance the security of Germany's fuel supply at the national level. Fell said, “Even if the price of crude oil had dropped to an all-time low, I was fully aware of the finite nature of this resource.”
He also identified solar and other renewable energy markets as a good bet for regional value and job creation.
Fell realized the key to the policy was a fixed payment, instead of payment based on the prevailing price of electricity. The fact that the electricity industry was undergoing deregulation presented just the right environment needed to pass the necessary legislation. The EEG has gone on tobecome the most inclusive and successful renewable energy regulation in the world.
Growth of Germany’s Installed Photovoltaic Capacity
Source: German Solar Industry Association/www.solarwirtschaft.de
From the adoption of the EEG in 2000 and end of 2010, Germany's photovoltaic market grew from an installed capacity of 100MWp to 17.193 MWp at the end of 2010.
The current version of EEG ensures the Germany's PV market remains the number one market for photovoltaic installation. It calls for a planned installed capacity of up to 3,500 MW per year. The revisions made to EEG reduces funding for solar PV. The 2011 degression for PV remains the same for 2012.
The digression adjustments have a base of nine percent a year. The digression increases by three percent, if the PV growth exceeds the target of 3,500 per year, up to the first gigawatt. Each additional GW results in a three percent increase up to a ceiling of 7.5 gigawatt. The maximum degression equals 15 percent a year.
According to industry and government sources, the country will have an installed PV capacity of more than 50, 000 by the year 2020.
The Most Efficient Solar Market in the EU
A survey conducted by the organization PV Legal rates Germany's photovoltaic industry as the most effective and efficient solar industry in the European Union. PV Legal is a project sponsored by the European Commission's Intelligent Energy for Europe. The organization aims to reduce bureaucracy and other impediments to PV installations across the EU.
Germanyoutranked the other 11 EU countries in all categories, which include Spain, Italy and France. On average, it takes six weeks to connect small-scale PV systems to the grid. The range for the other countries ranged from 14 to 54 weeks. The administration and legal costs for PV developments (excluding equipment) for small residential up to large-scale developments average 7.6 percent. For the other countries reporting, this figure ranged from 19 to 65 percent. Germany also ranks number one for the most efficient use of labor required to complete PV projects of all sizes.
Economic Benefits to Germany
Germany's economic development agency states that more than 100,000 people work in the solar industry - just in the photovoltaic segment of the market in 2010. Add the employment for the remainder of the solar industry, the figure increases to 133,000 full-time employees, according to the German Solar Industry Association (BSW-Solar).
The number of photovoltaic companies, which includes vendors and installers, totaled about 10,000. Two hundred companies manufactured solar cells, modules, and other solar system components. Solar manufactures exported 50 percent of their output last year. BSW-Solar reports ten billion Euro value added to the German economy in 2010.Tax contributions equaled 1.5 billion Euro.
While other countries take a less aggressive approach to the installation of solar and other renewable energies, Germany continues to set a pace for all other nations to emulate. Germany is proving that it's possible to transition away from a reliance on fossil fuels and nuclear reactors to a safe, clean source of energy, which create employment opportunities in the process.