Power from the sun – that sounds good at first. But in practice, bureaucratic hurdles prevent the expansion of solar energy. Economics Minister Habeck wants further relief.
In fields, on warehouse roofs and on your own balcony: Federal Economics Minister Robert Habeck wants to speed up the construction of solar systems.
At a meeting with politicians, associations, the energy sector and consumer advocates in Berlin, the Green politician presented a first draft of a new photovoltaic strategy, which should ultimately result in new laws. It shall now be discussed; Habeck wants to present the final version at another solar “summit” in early May.
In the first reactions to his 40-page paper, Habeck was well received. The draft could “trigger a decent boost,” said the managing director of the Association of Municipal Enterprises (VKU), Ingbert Liebing. “If the remaining brakes on expansion are released, we’ll really make progress.” The general manager of the German Solar Industry Association (BSW), Carsten Körnig, explained that he had not yet been able to study the paper in detail. “But what we’ve seen in headlines is really encouraging.” Thomas Engelke from the Federation of German Consumer Organizations (VZBV) told the German Press Agency: “From a consumer perspective, the draft solar strategy is going in the right direction.” However, he emphasized: “It is important that electricity becomes more affordable when the supply has to be switched to renewable energies.”
Importance of solar systems
Recently, solar energy in Germany has increased significantly, albeit at a low level. At the end of the year, solar energy accounted for almost half of the 142 gigawatts (GW) of installed renewable energy capacity, namely 66.5 GW, with an increase of 7.3 GW last year, according to the ministry. But much more is planned: According to its self-imposed expansion target, Germany wants to achieve 215 gigawatts of installed solar capacity by 2030, and by 2040 it should be 400 gigawatts. The “solar sprint” of the last year gives hope, said Körnig.
roof or field?
According to Habeck’s draft, half of the new solar systems should be on buildings, i.e. primarily roofs, from 2026, and the other half on open spaces such as fields. Plants in open spaces can therefore be erected faster and more cheaply, if only because of the larger amounts of material. Personnel costs are the lowest per GW of installed capacity. Systems on roofs, balconies or facades, on the other hand, can help to cover the increasing electricity demand of the residents, which is supplied with more climate-friendly heating systems such as heat pumps or electric cars. Tenants or owners can also feed the electricity into the grid and earn money with it.
Habeck wants to facilitate the construction of solar systems in commercial and industrial areas, on agricultural land and on water. When it comes to company roofs and areas, entrepreneurs often expect a system to pay for itself in seven to eight years – but this is usually not achievable, said industry representative Körnig. Many would also be deterred by a “veritable jungle of bureaucracy”.
Electricity from your own roof
From Habeck’s point of view, the hurdles for so-called tenant electricity, where the electricity for a residential building comes from the on-site solar system, are still too high, especially for landlords or homeowners’ associations. For professional providers, on the other hand, such small projects yield too little income. The rules should be simpler. In addition, Habeck wants to make it possible for residents not to use the electricity from the system on their own roof, but simply to feed it into the grid and earn money with it.
Solar power from the balcony
With a solar module on your own balcony, anyone can easily generate electricity themselves, even if the ministry estimates that the share of solar power in Germany will remain low. The whole thing should be so simple that anyone can put such a system into operation themselves. Habeck also wants to remove bureaucratic requirements and allow the double plug (“Schuko plug”) that is customary in Germany for such systems.
The role of electricity in the German energy supply is to increase in terms of climate protection, especially from renewable energies that are generated decentrally. From VKU’s point of view, the “mandatory prerequisite” for the use of more solar systems is an expansion of the distribution grids that bring the electricity to the end customers. The problem from the point of view of the public utilities: You can only recoup investments in the networks afterwards with a delay of several years via network fees. A forward-looking expansion is necessary, warns Liebing.
dependence on China
Germany has to import most of the products required for solar systems from China. Habeck complained that Germany had not done enough in the past to maintain domestic industry. He wants to bring more solar companies back into the country.