FAZ: Criticism from Energy Sector Concerning New Support Programme for Solar Storage Systems

There was criticism from the energy sector concerning a new support programme for solar storage systems that is supposed to be launched in March, the newspaper Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung writes. FAZ quotes inter alia the heads of the the Federal Association of the Energy and Water Industry (BDEW) and the German Energy Agency (dena). In a separate interview with the newspaper, dena’s Stephan Kohler criticised (again) that grid expansion did not keep pace with the rapid renewables growth leading to high avoidable costs.

The support programme for solar storage systems was part of a compromise reached in the mediation committee of the Bundestag (Parliament) and the Bundesrat (Federal Council) regarding last year’s solar feed-in tariff cuts. At the time the government pledged to provide funds of EUR 50 million as of 1 January for loans at reduced rates of interest for decentralised storage facilities to be granted by the state-owned KfW Development Bank. According to FAZ, KfW is to start the programme in March, providing funds of EUR 2,000 to 3,000 for private homes (the exact details of the programme are not yet available).

While the solar industry supports the programme, other energy industry members like the heads of BDEW and dena as well as Felix Matthes of the reknowned Ökoinstitut (Institute for Applied Ecology) speak out against it, FAZ says. The paper quotes Hildegard Müller of BDEW as saying solar power would thus get double funding (fixed solar feed-in tariffs plus support under the new programme) for which the other electricity consumers had to pay. Felix Matthes criticises that the solar storage technology was too expensive, FAZ says. Besides, the storage systems were not linked to the grids in a way that they could be managed for the greater benefit of the grids as a whole. Hence, they would not stabilise the grids, but could potentially destablise them further (because the individual owner decides when to use the electricity stored in the system).

The Ministry of Economics and Technology (BMWi) confirmed that a higher use of self-generated solar power “did not necessarily help to stabilise the distribution grids” and acknowledged that battery operated solar storage systems were “not yet economically viable”, FAZ says. Hence, BMWi supported further research. The compromise in the mediation committee last year also comprised an announcement by the government to raise funding for research into regenerative energy systems, application-oriented photovoltaic systems and production technologies considerably, the Bundesrat informed at the time.

In a separate interview with FAZ, dena’s chief executive Stephan Kohler supported Mrs Müller’s and Mr Matthes’ criticism, but went further. According to the expansion plans Germany would have some 220 GW of installed capacity in ten year’s time, 83 GW of which were needed for a secure energy supply, Mr Kohler pointed out. Yet even in summer there were times when only 30 GW were actually needed, hence up to a third of the electricity generated in ten year’s time might have to be sold abroad at cheap prices or even given away for free. Mr Kohler suggested again to coordinate renewable growth and grid expansion (for more information, please see here). Besides, renewable energy sources would most probably supply 80% of the electricity, he said (thus, meeting the target laid down in the Renewable Energy Sources Act), but only deliver 24% of the secure supply capacity (for a dena study of August 2012, please see here). Hence, Germany still needed electricity from renewable as well as conventional power plants for a long time to come, he emphasized.

Sources: Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung, 21 January 2012, interview with Stephan Kohler and article

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