Germany: Belectric considering constitutional challenge


The political discussions surrounding the drastic cuts in solar subsidies are currently in progress. After the first reading in the German Lower House of Parliament, the first slight correction of the sample text submitted by German Federal Minister for the Environment, Nature Conservation and Nuclear Safety Norbert Röttgen (CDU) and his colleague responsible for economic policy in the FDP, Philipp Rösler, has been accepted. Thus, the 30 percent cuts to the FITs will not take effect on March 9, but rather on April 1.

However, it is the project developers for large solar parks, such as Belectric, solar hybrid and First Solar, which repeatedly stress that it is, specifically, the planned regulations for outdoor plants that have resulted in serious insecurity among investors. For example, after a transition period up to the middle of the year, there will no longer be subsidies for photovoltaic projects bigger than 10 MW. Yet these solar parks often have lead times of more than one year before the solar park can finally be connected to the grid.

Now, in a move similar to that seen in the U.K. solar industry, Belectric is threatening to file a constitutional challenge against the Renewable Energy Act amendment. "We are waiting for the outcome of the parliamentary procedure," said Martin Zembsch, managing director of the project planning company, in Wednesday’s issue of the trade paper Handelsblatt. "If the cuts are made as announced, then we will file a complaint in any case."

He emphasized that other companies are also prepared to join the complaint. Jurist Anna Leisner-Egensperger prepared an expert opinion in order to go before the German Federal Constitutional Court. According to the opinion, the planned amendment conflicts with existing rulings; particularly in the case of building law, says the report.

The new photovoltaic subsidy rates are to come into effect on April 1 and even include projects that have already been approved and are scheduled to be connected to the grid by June 30. Zembsch told the Handelsblatt that this is unconstitutional, because according to building law, the companies would have to comply with deadlines in the case of large-scale projects.

Furthermore, the transition period up to the middle of the year does not suffice for large-scale projects since at least six months are required in order to obtain just the building permits. "Projects that were begun in the past two quarters thus threaten to become money-losing transactions," continued Zembsch.

According to the expert opinion prepared by Leisner-Egensperger, a transition period up to the end of the year is absolutely imperative in order to be able to realize the respective photovoltaic projects.

Demand for uniform PV tariffs

Shortly after Germany unveiled its new FIT proposals, Belectric submitted its own tariff concept. The project planner advocates the introduction of a uniform tariff of 15 cents per kilowatt hour for solar electricity. All of the targets of the German federal government could then be achieved, which is not the case with the present proposal, noted Belectric managing director Bernhard Beck upon its presentation.

With the uniform tariff, the market growth of the photovoltaic industry could then be controlled, and the Renewable Energy Act reallocation would be clearly reduced and thus relieve consumers. Moreover, with this model, grid development costs would also be lowered and the gradual introduction of photovoltaic technology into the market – as Röttgen and Rösler are attempting with their market integration model – would likewise be given, added Beck.

Belectric already had its model for a uniform photovoltaic tariff calculated by Prognos and subsequently published the results in an expert opinion.

Translated by Alan Faulcon; edited by Becky Stuart.

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