Germany Watch

There can be no dispute that Germany is a big player in Solar PV, and much of PV's positive growth must be attributed to that nation.  Here's a Wiki entry on it.  Here's a 2013 analysis showing unsubsidized solar PV growth projections in Germany.  "On a global comparison, the German PV market is the largest. Approximately 50 percent of the photovoltaic production technology used globally originates from German machine and installation producers."  (Source).  Germany now produces 25% of its electricity via renewable sources: “2012 is the year that the 25 Gigawatts per year threshold for installed solar nameplate power will be reached.”  

Of that 25% figure, "photovoltaics rose from 3.6 percent in the first half of 2011 to 5.3 percent of power supply in Q1 and Q2 2012."  (Source).  A grid operator over there says the same.  (Source). It may well see Solar PV supplying 100% of its peak power needs by 2020, and one of the reasons why is because it's cut permitting costs to near zero and you can order a grid-tie, residential system on Monday and have it up by Saturday.  (Source see this source, too).   

But this April, 2014 article points out severe workability questions with renewable (hence, solar) power in terms of cost and net-carbon reduction goals.  It follows this March, 2013 article also pointing out the economic questions and variability problems with solar.  And Germany now bears the highest electricity rates in Europe. Problems with Germany's energy policy are discussed here.  And in September, 2013, proposals were made to drop the German Feed-In-Tariff (FIT) outright.  This October, 2013 NYT article notes that “German electricity prices have skyrocketed while carbon emissions have actually increased as oil- and coal-powered plants have fired up to fill gaps in the incomplete new system.” Yet, this November, 2013 article is a lot more optimistic.  In contrast, this April, 2014 column portends dark times for the German power sector.  Here's a May, 2014 update.  This September, 2014 NYT article seems more upbeat.

Note that Europe Accounts for 70% of Global PV (as of 9/12), and Germany leads that pack.  It is claimed that Germany could save 750,000,000,000 Euro dollars by 2050 "if it sticks to its plans of replacing nuclear with renewable sources."  (Source).  "Germany aims to generate 35% of its power from renewable sources by 2020 and 80% by 2050."  (Source).  It is swearing off nuclear power, and "rising solar output is expected to cut demand for other electricity sources."  (Source).  To that end, the Germans require an elaborate grid-integration certification process.

There is no free market in Germany that's driving the solar march.  Instead, Germans themselves are simply trying to purchase freedom from nuclear power.  Money quote:

German consumers will foot the renewable energy subsidy bill next year to the tune of 20.36 billion euros, an average increase per household of 59 euros annually.

Clean energy advocacy groups, like the Renewable Energy Research Association, say that it’s wrong to focus on short-term increases when Germany is estimated to save over 570 billion euros by 2050 if it continues to eliminate nuclear power.

(Source).

Here's a perspective on the German solar policy from a Georgia PSC Commissioner's perspective.  Here's an (October, 2013) perspective from some really upset people insisting that the German scheme is radically flawed because it's economically destroying the very utilities it needs to operate its grid.  This, too.  Here's a more optimistic German policy analysis.
 
I'm collecting here other articles I find about German's Solar PV efforts, especially its much-debated FIT policy, as extensively described herehere and here, and I invite readers to share with me research on it.  I'm most particularly interested in how the Germans operationally and economically blend the variable power that Solar PV represents with its utility grid (click here for more on that issue).  The demand-side subsidies (huge reverse-meter rates paid to individual Solar PV producers) have worked a tremendous change, and as this article reports (this, too), they've been kept out of the government and instead run through the German utilities' billing system (hence, their Politicians and Bureaucrats can't get their hands on them).  Germany right now is debating how to manage its renewable energy distribution issues (growing pains).  The Economist has (October 12, 2013) just put out a foreboding article on the "existential threat" renewable energy has for German utilities.

July, 2014:  Is Germany tangled up in grid-stability issues?  Click here.

November, 2013:  Forbes article calling the German solar program a "debacle."

October, 2013: A Georgia PSC Commissioner's Report on his investigation of the German utility market.  It dovetails with this January, 2014 piece, deeming Germany the "Canary" in the mine shaft on green-energy policy.

September, 2013: The Germans are now subsidizing home solar PV electricity storage.  Does this make economic/ecologic sense?  Money Quote: 

The energy storage market in Germany will be dominated by the residential sector, with 30 MW of installations already supported by the subsidy in 2013, IHS says. Periodic decreases in FIT and continually increasing electricity prices, coupled with decreasing PV system prices, have now made it financially favorable for a homeowner to self-consume PV energy on-site rather than export it to the electricity grid and receive the FIT.

March, 2013:  "Germany is considered the world leader in solar energy, as the country currently uses vastly more solar power than any other country. In fact, in 2009, Germany installed 3,806 megawatts of solar energy capacity—nearly eight times the amount installed by the U.S. in the same year. In 2010, Germany remained the leader of the pack, installing even more solar energy capacity—17,193 megawatts, or 43 percent of the world’s total installation for the year."  (Source).  "The country has a hefty goal of converting entirely to renewable energy sources by the year 2050."  Id.

March, 2013:  "Germany, which got 20.7 percent of its electricity from renewable energy in 2011, is re-evaluating the incentives it provides to increase that share to 35 percent by 2020, because of worries that its current approach will drive up power prices inordinately at a time of economic uncertainty. It has had trouble ramping up transmission capacity to carry the wind power generated in the blustery North to the industrial South, where it is needed."  (Source).

March, 2013:  Some in Germany are now raising doubts about subsidization in the first place.  Source  ("Solar energy has gone from being the great white hope, to an impediment, to a reliable energy supply. Solar farm operators and homeowners with solar panels on their roofs collected more than €8 billion ($10.2 billion) in subsidies in 2011, but the electricity they generated made up only about 3 percent of the total power supply, and that at unpredictable times.").  More on that meme here.

November, 2012:  "German Solar Production Up 50% In 2012" but there's a big fight over fees charged by grid operators.

September 29, 2012:  Germany installs Solar PV ten times faster than Americans do.  (Source).

August 16, 2012:  Here's the latest on the German PV market, as driven by its FIT policy.

June, 2012:  Here's the latest on the German PV market.  And this on its FIT policy.

May 31, 2012:  New Solar PV output record set: "Germany fed a whopping 22 gigawatts of solar power per hour into the national grid last weekend, setting a new record by meeting nearly half of the country’s weekend power demand. After the Fukushima disaster, Japan opted to shut down all of its nuclear power stations and Germany followed suit after considerable public pressure. This seems to have paved the way for greater investment in solar energy projects. The Renewable Energy Industry (IWR) in Muenster announced that Saturday’s solar energy generation met nearly 50 percent of the nation’s midday electricity needs AND was equal to 20 nuclear power stations at full capacity!"

March 21, 2012:  
Here is a story about how much it will cost Germany to upgrade their distribution grids to integrate 50 to 70 GW of solar. They are currently at 28 GW or so. The estimate they give is 1 billion Euros to allow for the integration of 10 to 12% PV.

January 4, 2012: "
German solar produced over 18 TWh in 2011, up 60% from 2010, according to the Bundesverband Solarwirtschaft (BSW-Solar)."  (Source).  But, "[t]he falling feed-in tariffs for solar may also have spurred some installers into action to get a share of the cake before further reductions come into force. The German solar feed-in tariffs were reduced by 13% at the beginning of 2011. On the 1 January this year, it fell by another 15% and by mid-year, it is expected to be reduced by a further 9%, BSW says."  Id.  See the bubble effects of subsidization?  Bubble, bust...

Hence, the solar industry guys over there spew out hopeful projections and a "stable policy" (read: more largesse on which to mooch): "
The solar trade association says solar could contribute 10% of German electricity by 2020, but calls on Government to create stable policy and investor conditions for the solar industry in Germany." 
(Source).

Here's another article, this one focusing on the link between Solar PV production and FIT rates (a record 7.5GW of Solar PV installed there in 2011).  Money quote: "The country is the largest solar energy market in the world thanks to the feed-in tariff program is put in roughly a decade ago."

Al Jazeera's take on German Green.

Check out this comparison between what Germany's been doing and what India is now doing:

Over the last decade, India has opened the state-dominated power-generating industry to private players, while leaving transmission, distribution and rate-setting largely in government hands. European countries heavily subsidize expensive solar power by agreeing to buy it for decades at a time, but the subsidies in India are much lower and solar operators are forced into to greater competition, helping push down costs.

This month, the government held its second auction to determine the price at which its state-owned power trading company — NTPC Vidyut Vyapar Nigam — would buy solar-generated electricity for the national grid. The average winning bid was 8.77 rupees (16.5 cents) per kilowatt hour.

That is about twice the price of coal-generated power, but it was about 27 percent lower than the winning bids at the first auction held a year ago. Germany, the world’s biggest solar-power user, pays about 17.94 euro cents (23 American cents) per kilowatt hour.

India, to be sure, still significantly lags behind European countries in the use of solar. Germany, for example, had 17,000 megawatts of solar power capacity at the end of 2010. But India, which gets more than 300 days of sunlight a year, is a far more suitable place to generate solar power. And being behind is now benefiting India, as panel prices plummet, enabling it to spend far less to set up solar farms than countries that pioneered the technology.

In its solar power auctions, moreover, NTPC is not creating open-ended contracts. The last auction, for example, was for a total of only 350 megawatts, which will cap the government’s costs. The assumption is that the price of solar power will continue to decline, eventually approaching the cost of electricity generated through conventional methods.

(Source).  Slick, huh?  The Indians waited and are now riding the lower-cost wave, and refusing to throw gads of public money at Solar PV, but instead are juicing just enough of it to foster a self-generating, subsidy-free momentum.  Will they have the Germans to thank?

Here's a thoughtful and informative blog that periodically discusses German Solar power.

May 29, 2012: Germany sets record for solar power production.  Money Quote: "Germany has nearly as much installed solar power generation capacity as the rest of the world combined and gets about four per cent of its overall annual electricity needs from the sun alone. It aims to cut its greenhouse gas emissions by 40 per cent from 1990 levels by 2020."

7/5/12 -- Here's an article on German energy pricing.