Critics have claimed that Germany has spent $130 billion in solar subsidies to provide only 0.3% of its electricity. This is a shallow and ignorant argument at its worst. The critics from all over the world cite figures and statistics without going into the deeper implications. Germany has in the last 5 years made solar energy reach the poorest people in the world . The country’s subsideis have made large solar companies lower costs and improve technology at a rapid pace to keep up with the lowered subsidies. Solar Panels which were sold for $4/watt in 2008 are solar for 80c/watt now. A truly remarkable story in Energy which has been missed the the fossil fuel funded hacks in media. For the last few centuries man has been trying to harness solar energy at reasonable costs but has failed to make a big impression. Germany in the last 5 years has made a huge and lasting impact as solar energy will go from strenght to strenght ..
There is urgent need to reduce the solar capacity addition in Germany because
a) It is requiring almost half of the $21 billion renewable energy subsidies in 2011 while generating 3% of the total power
b) Too much solar power while put pressure on the power grid as at the peak afternoon hours solar can generate almost 10% of Germany’s power requirement which means shutting down other sources
c) German Solar Panel producers have stopped benefiting from German domestic growth. Most solar companies in Germany have been decimated by Chinese competition and around 20000 solar jobs and 5000 companies have shut down.
Germany has seen the biggest increase in solar installations in the history of solar energy with 3 GW in the month of December 2011 alone. For perspective this is almost equal to the installed capacity of the Chinese solar energy which has almost 6-7 times as much electricity generating capacity . The returns are still high in 2012 with existing FIT , so the German government may have to plan additional cuts with plans of
a) cut of 2% FIT every month in 2012 to slow down the installations and bring down the solar system IRR
b) a cap on feed in tariffs to solar systems of 3 kilowatts only .This will prevent larger solar installations and building of large solar farms
Solar Trade Wars are becoming the norm in the globe these days with the major one between USA and China.The instigator is the German solar company Solarworld which helped started the ITC Case in the USA.India too is thinking of putting some kind of import duty to protect its domestic solar panel producers which are dropping like flies.Chinese solar panel producers have swamped the world with super cheap solar modules.Though a part of their low prices can be explained by competitive advantage, another part is due to the labor,capital subsidy given by the Chinese government.It would not take a rocket scientist to say that some of the biggest Chinese solar companies are insolvent and would be dead within a month without Chinese state loans.
The German Solar Energy Market is biggest in the world and has installed the largest number of solar panels for the last few years.2012 promises to be no different with Germany again set to the biggest solar market for solar panel manufacturers though Italy would give good competition.The German Solar Subsidy program has been the best in the world unlike the start and stop feed in tariff programs of Spain,Czech,UK,Australia and other places.A stable step in cut of feed in tariffs has helped solar energy prices coming down by more than 50% in the last few years though demand has only increased.
Note Chinese companies too would have shut down but the state owned Chinese banks are keeping them alive with loans at ridiculous interest rates.LDK which is buying Sunways is almost insolvent as well with its convertibles trading at less than 50c on the dollar in Singapore.It has more than n$3 billion in debt compared to its market cap of around $600 million.It faces massive losses in the coming qtrs and can’t serve the interest payments much less expand.The strong support of the Chinese government for its green companies is keeping them alive.Chinese solar panels have become super cheap due to companies selling at below cost and massive scale.Note all the cheap solar panel brands in the world are Chinese with the exception of First Solar and some Asians.
LDK has managed to spend 22 million Euros despite burning hundred of millions of dollars in cash because it has got the Chinese government trillions backing it.So while Western companies burn and crash,the big crony Chinese companies can expand and acquire.
Most of the German solar manufacturing industry is finished and it is unlikely that except a couple of them like SM Solar or Wacker will live to see 2013.Q-Cells too should go bankrupt or get consolidated .Note despite European companies shifting factories to Asia ,they just can’t compete.Some of the smaller module makers with 20 MW plants have seen huge losses with the equipment not selling for 10 cents on the dollar