Solar subsidies cost German consumers billions of dollars a year and are widely regarded as inefficient. Even environmentalists are concerned that Berlin’s focus on solar comes at the detriment of other renewables. But the solar industry has a powerful lobby, and politicians have proven powerless to resist.
Germany’s new environment minister Peter Altmaier had only been in office a week before he traveled to Bonn for an urgent appointment. Important representatives from the German renewable energy industry were expecting him, including Frank Asbeck, CEO of the Bonn based Solarworld AG. And they were not to be put off. They wanted to know from Altmaier, who assumed his office in May, what was going to happen with solar industry subsidies.
The results of those closed-door negotiations will soon be passed on to the general public via their electricity bills, which are once again about to go up — even though Germans already pay the second highest energy prices in Europe. Next year, a three-person family will likely have to pay up to an additional €175 ($220) to finance the construction of renewable energy infrastructure.
The biggest culprit behind this increase is the German government’s misguided subsidy policy. To the delight of the solar industry, Altmaier has decided to divert the largest share of renewable energy subsidies to photovoltaics, the most expensive renewable energy technology. As a result the solar industry is expecting continued record growth, despite the fact that photovoltaics are also the renewable energy least suited to the German climate.