Intersolar Europe: German energy minister backs solar's role in energy transition

Germany’s minister for economic affairs and energy Sigmar Gabriel told a packed audience on the final day of the Intersolar Europe exhibition that the solar industry has a key role in shaping the country’s famed ‘mittelstand’.

The minister’s rallying address was well received by a crowd that has been buoyed by a compact, positive trade show that served to reflect Germany’s avuncular role in the new solar energy landscape.

Having entered a post-growth phase of consolidation, Germany’s solar industry is now perfectly positioned to expand along the traditional mittelstand route – solid, steady and supportive of innovation and the famed German standards for high quality.

“Solar, together with wind energy, is the backbone of Germany’s energy transition,” said Gabriel, who praised the industry’s drive for higher standards, better efficiency and new technological solutions that will help the country transition towards a more renewable future.

The minister warned, however, that solar needs to become a more secure investment landscape within Germany and more widely in Europe, and pledged to help make the sector more attractive to investors over the next four years of government.

Carsten Kornig, the head of BSW (the German Solar Association) echoed Gabriel’s claim that solar is one of the main pillars of the country’s new energy landscape, but called upon the minister to do more to arrest the industry’s domestic decline.

“The development of solar energy in Germany has been declining for years, and once again in 2015 the government targets will be missed,” Kornig said. “Sigmar Gabriel must reassess the meaning of the energy transition. The solar industry still has a need for more support.”

Kornig added that the recent G7 announcement to strive for a carbon-free world by 2100 was a logical step that should serve to give Germany’s solar industry renewed momentum.

“The solar industry has done the hard work on this, reducing costs by 80% in the past decade,” he said. “We are now at a stage where we can leave coal in the ground and begin supporting intelligent storage technologies and easing off the brakes of the solar industry.”