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Solar cap removal not enough to bring clean energy to scale – German renewables industry

The planned removal of Germany’s solar power support cap will not be enough to ensure that the country gets back on track towards meeting its ambitious renewable energy production targets, representatives of the renewable energy industry warned during a hearing of the parliament’s economic committee on planned changes to the Renewable Energy Act (EEG). “This measure by itself will not be enough,” said Simone Peter, head of renewable energy association BEE. The necessary capacity to achieve Germany’s clean power and emissions reduction targets will require revised expansion goals and an annual addition of “at least” 10 gigawatts (GW) of solar power installations, half of which should be built on buildings, Peter argued. Solar power industry association BSW warned of a green power gap that could arise by 2023, when all of Germany’s nuclear plants will have been decommissioned and the country’s coal exit starts to take effect. The current pace of expansion will need to be tripled by that year in order to ensure solar power production is brought to scale, the BSW said.

Peter also criticised the long debate preceding the compromise on onshore wind turbine minimum distances, saying it caused major uncertainties in the industry and damaged one of the energy transition’s core technologies. “A continued expansion of wind power is needed to achieve the targets of the Climate Action Law and reach a share of 65 percent renewables in power production by 2030, but it is also imperative for the aims laid down in the National Hydrogen Strategy,” she said, adding that the government needs to put a “technology-specific expansion framework defining speed and volume” of renewables expansion.

Herman Albers, head of wind power industry group BWE, said now was the “time to look ahead” and make sure the months-long dispute over minimum distance is overcome swiftly. He said every German state should devote at least two percent of its area to wind power projects in order to achieve a wind power production of 770 terawatt hours (TWh) by 2050 and ease regulation for repowering older wind farms. “If existing locations are used prudently and a long-term perspective for wind power is applied, repowering can already achieve a lot,” Albers said, adding that the average capacity of turbines could be more than doubled if old turbines are replaced with newer ones.

Harald Schwarz of the Brandenburg University of Technology (BTU) said the government must urgently put a greater focus on renewable energy storage. “The secured capacity is still equal to zero,” Schwarz said, arguing that the government had squandered “15 years during which nothing happened” in this regard. Germany will have to spend the next two decades making up for this neglect, during which it will need to cope with fluctuating power production, he said.

The solar cap removal and wind power minimum distance rules for months were held up by political gridlock and weighed heavily on renewables expansion, before the government coalition reached an agreement in mid-May. While renewable power production has reached unprecedented shares in Germany over the last months, a continued energy transition with millions of electric vehicles, decarbonisation efforts by the industry and green hydrogen production could greatly increase the demand for renewable power in the next years.

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