The German government has announced the most severe cuts in solar subsidies (20-29 per cent) since 2004. The move comes after the country witnessed a massive expansion in solar power production capacity in 2011 and the associated costs for consumers, who had to pay above-market rates for renewable energy. The government now hopes to contain new capacity to between 2.5-3.5 GW this year and next year, down from 7.5 GW in 2011. From 2014, it is targeting a yearly reduction of 400 MW and from 2017 between 900 MW and 1,900 MW. Germany is not alone in its efforts to contain costs for supporting the solar power industry: France, Italy, Spain and the United Kingdom are also reducing their subsidies to align with falling solar panel prices and control the explosive growth. In Germany, solar prices plunged more than 45 per cent last year, largely due to rising Chinese competition.
The country’s cabinet recently approved a series of laws to make possible an exit from atomic energy by the end of 2022, including measures for a massive increase of onshore and offshore wind power, the accelerated expansion of the electricity grid, and more gas-fired generation capacity. Despite being behind schedule on plans for wind parks off Germany’s North and Baltic Seacoasts, the government is sticking to an ambitious offshore wind energy target.
“We want to expand wind power at sea in the next 20 years, to a capacity of 25 GW,” Transport and Construction Minister Peter Ramsauer said. “That is equivalent to the generating capacity of 18-20 nuclear power stations.” The cabinet agreed a gradual phase-out from nuclear power, with one of its 17 nuclear power stations each being switched off in 2015, 2017 and 2019, and three each in 2021 and 2022, Environment Minister Norbert Roettgen said.
In yet another development, the country’s recently introduced energy legislation would benefit offshore wind farms over land-based ones under a government proposal aimed at limiting the cost of new sources of renewable energy as it scraps its nuclear power plants.
Offshore wind park owners will see their guaranteed above market rates decrease starting in 2018, three years later than the government had planned, the Environment Ministry said in a draft law published on its website. Onshore turbine operators will see an annual reduction of 1 per cent in feed-in tariffs from 2012.
Wind turbine supplier Suzlon Energy has opened a new research, development & technology centre in Germany. The company plans to have a total employee strength of 200 in the new centre, which will include over 120 employees of Suzlon Energy GmbH. Suzlon GmbH is a joint venture between Suzlon’s arm Suzlon Wind Energy and Volkswind Bulgaria GmbH, which is a subsidiary of Volkswind GmbH.
Besides, the company plans to expand capacity at its plant in China as it expects to return to profit this financial year. Suzlon will manufacture turbines capable of generating a combined 1,000 MW in China by 2013, Suzlon Chairman Tulsi Tanti said in Tianjin, China. That’s a 67 per cent increase from the current capacity of 600 MW, which Tanti said will be used fully next year.