Government rep feels heat at German PV symposium

The 30th Photovolatic Solar Energy Symposium in Bad Staffelstein, Germany, got off to a heated start on Wednesday when an official of the Federal Ministry for Economic Affairs and Energy told hundreds of PV industry reps that they, and not the government, bore the responsibility for the loss of thousands of jobs in the solar sector.

Taking place at the majestic Banz Abbey, which was founded in 1070 near the city of Bamberg, the symposium is the longest-running PV industry event in Germany, drawing hundreds of solar sector representatives.

Conference Chairman Michael Powalla opened the three-day event on Wednesday, traditionally the most politically focused day of the conference.

The confab is sponsored by the Ministry for Economic Affairs and Energy but that did little to ease the tension between participants and Dorothee Mühl, deputy director general of the ministry’s Energy Department. Discussing Germany’s often difficult energy transition and recent amendments to the country’s Renewable Energy Act (EEG), Mühl said there was still much ahead for Germany’s solar sector, but offered few specific details in her speech to an industry that has seen its manufacturing sector all but collapse in recent years.

Indeed, the energy ministry estimates that the targeted PV installation corridor of between 2.4 and 2.6 GW this year will again fall short. Mühl admitted that the recent changes to the Renewable Energy Act and the winding down of government support for solar could have been handled better, adding that the ministry was examining the problem but would not take any immediate action.

When asked about securing jobs in the domestic solar industry, Mühl rejected any responsibility on the part of the government for the loss of thousands of jobs.

"The government has no responsibility for the business sector; you bear that as business owners,” she told the audience, which reacted angrily. Quickly backpedaling, Mühl offered that there was indeed common responsibility for the failed transition that led to the current situation and that was why the government was seeking dialogue.

The Photovolatic Solar Energy Symposium is organized by the non-profit industry organization OTTI.