More Solar Power than ever before
Record level of production: In 2011, German solar power systems generated enough electricity to cover the power consumption of Thuringia / Support for solar power is reduced by 15 percent as of 1 January 2012, reaching the level of household electricity prices / Increased growth in the solar heating market
The year comes to an end with record levels in the production of solar power. In 2011, solar power systems in Germany produced over 18 billion kilowatt hours of electricity, according to figures provided by the German Solar Industry Association (BSW-Solar) at the close of the year. That amounts to 60 percent more than in the previous year and is approximately equal to the electricity consumption of the state of Thuringia; this volume could theoretically supply 5.1 million households with electricity for an entire year. Solar heating usage also saw a marked increase in 2011, according to the Association's figures. “Solar power has become an indispensable ingredient for the success of the energy transformation,” explained Carsten Körnig, Chief Executive Officer of the German Solar Industry Association. One key reason for the high demand is the sharp increase in prices for oil and gas; another is found in the significantly lower costs for solar technology. Since 2007 alone, prices for turnkey solar power systems have fallen by more than half. This has allowed the support for solar power systems to be reduced by the same extent. In 2012, after another reduction in the level of remuneration for solar power at the turn of the year, the level of support will have already reached the price level for household electricity.
This is considered to be a significant milestone on the path to the full competitiveness of solar power with other energy sources. According to Körnig, “The solar industry is making good on its promise to radically reduce costs. As a next step, in 2013/2014 we will be able to match the support level of large ocean-based windfarms in initial market segments. This is the result of major efforts on the part of industry and research, combined with the effects of tough competition in international markets.”
Recent advances in cost reduction also mean that the further expansion of solar power in Germany will have a negligible impact in terms of cost. At the beginning of 2011, support for solar power was able to be reduced by 13 percent. On 1 January 2012, there will be an additional reduction for new systems by 15 percent, while another reduction by up to nine percent will take place in the middle of the year, as set out in the amendment to the Renewable Energy Sources Act (EEG), which was passed in the summer of 2011.
BSW-Solar now appeals to the Federal Government, following a period of considerable uncertainty, to allow this recently tightened legislation to run its course. According to Körnig, “What the solar industry now needs are reliable political conditions. This is indispensable for the continued expansion of renewable energy sources and for maintaining an attractive climate of investment in Germany. It's the only way to ensure that the contract between generations contained in the energy transformation will work. And it's the only way that Germany can continue to be successful in the now highly competitive growth markets.” Currently, solar power contributes roughly three percent of the German electricity supply; by 2020, this share is expected to expand to roughly 10 percent. Please see our illustration on the record levels of solar power production at:
Survey shows: Mid-agers investing in solar heating
Following weak figures in 2010, 2011 saw renewed increases not only in the production of solar power, but also in the use of solar heating. In order to better gauge the use of solar heating, the information portal co2online, on behalf of BSW-Solar, conducted a survey of 1500 solar heating users. The survey showed that “mid-agers” in particular are deciding to invest in solar heating; according to the survey, the average age for these users of solar heating is 47. The prospects of long-term reductions in energy costs are a central factor in this trend. For 64 percent of those surveyed, cost savings are an important reason for investing in solar heating. 46 percent stated that concern about price increases for fossil fuels such as oil and gas are a key reason. “The only reason that rated higher, at 81 percent, was environmental protection through solar technology,” explained Jörg Mayer, Chief Executive Officer of BSW-Solar. “Apparently, reducing costs on the expenditure side is becoming an increasingly important argument among the older generation.”