Germany: Head of SolarWorld accuses energy companies of destroying solar

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The solar industry is undergoing enormous consolidation pressure. "The global competitive struggle is murderous – it’s not a German phenomenon," said SolarWorld chairman of the board, Frank Asbeck in an interview with German newspaper, Süddeutsche Zeitung (Saturday edition) with regard to the problems of photovoltaics companies in China and the U.S.

When it comes to further reductions in the solar subsidies in Germany, Asbeck is convinced the consequences will be catastrophic. "They’re trying to destroy us. Our opponents want to put a stop to solar energy before it is too late." Asbeck warns that nearly two decades of industrial policy connected with subsidies and numerous jobs in Germany would be put at risk.

The head of SolarWorld accuses the German federal government of having succumbed once again to the energy lobby composed of the companies RWE, Eon, EnBW and Vattenfall. "They want to block the new uncontrollable competition: The share of renewable energies in Germany is nearly 20 percent. Thus all of the renewable energies taken together are as large as one energy giant," Asbeck told SZ.

Nevertheless, he is convinced the share of photovoltaics in Germany will continue to increase. Already in the year 2020, solar electricity could cover as much as ten percent of the German power requirement, and today it is already responsible for the fact that the price of electricity has declined on the stock exchange. "The companies don’t have an answer to that. They actually want us to be strangled. The castles of robber barons aren’t taken that easily. And that makes me furious," Asbeck, went on to say.

In the interview, the chairman of the board at SolarWorld additionally criticized the fact that the German federal government plans to reduce the development of photovoltaics even further in the next few years. "The attempt is to stop the development of green electricity at any price."

Furthermore, it is misleading when energy companies repeatedly attempt to make renewable energies – and in particular photovoltaics – responsible for increases in the price of electricity. "With stoic insolence the energy companies claim that sharply higher electricity rates are only because of renewable energies. That is simply a lie. The price of electricity for photovoltaics has risen by approximately two cents in recent years. We are not responsible for anything more than that," insists Asbeck.

However, in the interview Asbeck was also unable to resist a sideswipe against the Chinese competitors in the photovoltaics industry. He repeated his criticism that there is "no fair competition" and that China had launched an "industrial war." Thus, for example, last year the government in Peking supported Chinese photovoltaics companies with more than EUR 20 billion, Asbeck pointed out.

"With this money the companies offer their products at dumping prices – sometimes 30 percent below their own costs. And the goal is to push the rest of the world out of the market and to create a monopoly on the technology for exploitation of the largest energy source in the world," Asbeck continued. He went on to express satisfaction with the fact that the U.S. government had now imposed import duties on Chinese photovoltaics products. However, this is only the first step. "In May the government can do even more and introduce much higher duties," indicates Asbeck.

Asbeck affirmed that he is also aiming at such a measure within the European Union. "If Brussels instigates proceedings against unfair competition, then I expect the German government to provide support," he notes. However, he assumes that Chinese photovoltaic manufacturers will not be the only ones to survive at the end of the current consolidation process.

"I suspect that major companies in the electrical industry will also take a greater interest in this business – as can be seen in the case of Foxconn from Taiwan. Other international companies are sure to follow, because the solar market is only in its infancy. The business will grow fivefold to approximately EUR 200 billion by the year 2020 alone," Asbeck concluded.

Translated by Alan Faulcon.