SEIA sets the record straight on Germany's solar success

The large majority of Germany’s population supports the transition to renewable energy and the nation’s policies have been successful in meeting that goal, according to a report commissioned by the Solar Energy Industries Association (SEIA) and prepared by the Brattle Group.

In fact, Solar Energy Support in Germany: A Closer Look found that Germany’s system of feed-in tariffs had been more successful than expected, delivering 35 GW of solar PV by the end of 2013. New figures by Fraunhofer ISE show that solar represented 7.0% of Germany’s electricity generation in the first half of 2014, and electricity from PV has peaked at over 50% of the nation’s mid-day demand.

According to the report, these solar penetration levels have been high enough to require modifications to both Germany’s renewable energy program and overall electricity market design. And while solar and other renewable energy sources have brought down wholesale electricity prices, solar deployment has also led to higher than anticipated costs to consumers.

However, Brattle Group finds that this high level of PV deployment has driven down system costs 16% annually, which has resulted in much lower installed system costs than in the United States. And while the report found that program design was generally strong, it also concluded that feed-in tariff levels could have been reduced more rapidly to match falling prices for PV.

The report comes as Germany’s solar market has fallen sharply for two consecutive years, driven by cuts to its feed-in tariffs in an attempt by the previous government to reduce market volume. Germany installed slightly more than 1 GW in the first half of 2014, falling to second place among European markets behind the UK.

Additionally, the new SPD-CDU coalition government has recently passed an overhaul to the feed-in tariff system, which makes multiple changes including imposing surcharges on “self-consumption” systems and forcing larger PV plants into direct marketing of power.