The Year 2000: Breakthrough for Solar Technology in Germany

By Rolf Hug

The beginning of the new millennium stood completely under the sign of the sun. Active solar funding by the State, the Renewable Energy Sources Act (Erneuerbare-Energien-Gesetz, EEG) and rising energy prices gave the solar business a push: this industrial sector increased substantially in Germany.

Politics, Industry and the Media rate the past year as a turning point in the history of solar technology. The increased funding was welcomed by the public and was demanded on a large-scale. A large volume of requests for loans and waiting periods for the 100, 000 Roof Program excited many potential investors, but the combination of low interest loans with the cost-oriented pay-compensation operated as a catalyst for the demand. Increasing energy prices and rising sensitivity for climate problems show, that solar heating and Photovoltaics offer an alternative, also from a business point-of-view.

10,000 new solar heating systems were installed in the past year.

Photo: Solarserver. B. Kasparak

New Political Support with Start-up Problems

This boom was already showing itself before the ratification of the Renewable Energy Sources Act in February: first with the loan requests, then in the order books, and even in the stock-market. Manufacturer's stocks started to take off. Solar module supply shortages and the early exhaustion of demanded supplies was the reason that led the Federal Ministry of Economic Affairs to temporarily stop the 100,000 Roof Program. The Berlin Stop-and-Go Politics was heavily criticized by the Industry and the solar associations. In the meantime, the waves of outrage have been smoothed out. Complementary to the previous program with an interest rate of 1.9 %, the Promotional Bank for the German Economy (Kreditanstalt für Wiederaufbau-KfW) is offering a special Photovoltaic program to recently closed contractors- with an effective interest rate of about 3.95 % per year.

Grants for Collectors, New Central-Heating Boilers and Insulation

Solar and energy-saving buildings will be increasingly supported: the Federal budget panel decided in November, to increase the funds for the Market Stimulation Program for Renewable Energy from 200 million to 300 million German marks. The Federal Ministry of Economic Affairs will subsidize collectors with up to 325 marks per square meter. This contribution is doubled when the heating system is modernized at the same time, or insulation measures are taken. The environmental supplement, which was supposed to run out at the end of the year, has been extended: up until the end of 2002, contractors of low-energy houses will receive an additional 400 marks a year for the period of eight years. The installation of heat pumps, solar or heat retrieval systems will be recompensed with up to 500 marks per year.

100 Megawatt Solar Electricity Power; 3 Million Square Meters of Collector Surface

According to the Union of Solar Industry Companies, 80,000 new solar energy systems were installed in the past year. The Photovoltaik system has proved itself a winner, in terms of consumer popularity. In the past year, it has increased its market threefold. Solar heating systems are, after all, registering growth from over 30 percent.

The 10,000 newly installed solar electricity systems yield an output of about 45 Megawatts (MW), three times more than were mounted last year. With it, the total solar electricity output in Germany has been raised to over 100 Megawatts. The Federal Republic of Germany , which was number three on the 1999 list of worldwide Photovoltaic production, is catching up noticeably to the USA and Japan. The amount of German Photovoltaic output at the end of 1999 amounted to a total of 69.5 Megawatts. Japan brought it up to 205.3 MW and the USA had 117.3 MW installed. Trends in the worldwide development of PV can be seen in a current publication from the International Energy Agency (IEA), whose report unfortunately ended in 1999. The address is:

With the mounting of 70,000 solar heating systems, the collector surface increased from around 600,000 square meters to almost three million square meters. Small systems (under 100 square meters) have reached a growth rate, that in various scenarios, envisions the doubling of solar heat by 2010. According to current estimates, the German solar market reached a volume of about 1.5 billion marks in the year 2000. By the end of the decade, the market volume should increase to almost 7 billion marks. In total, almost 60 billion marks will be spend on solar technology by 2010 - 750 marks per person and year. The contribution of solar heating in protecting the environment cannot be underestimated: already now in Germany, there is a yearly decrease of 250,000 t of CO2 emitted, through the use of solar heating systems.

Boom in the Stock Market and for Solar Energy Installers

The positive development in the industry also followed up to the stock market: the exchange rate of quoted solar companies climbed to a record level. The S.A.G. Solarstrom AG (Freiburg) and the Berlin Solon AG for solar technology reached a peak value in Spring and Fall. The trading price has noticeably increased in the past 12 months. The development of the SolarWorld AG in Bonn has been outstanding. With the ratification of the Renewable Energy Sources Act in February, their stock trading price climbed from 20 to over 50 Euros. The stocks were even be traded at up to 95 Euros in the Fall. After one year, the stocks are standing at 56 Euros- an increase of about 200%.

The volume of SolarWorld AG in the year 2000 is obvious: the Bonn company had a turn over of 32 million marks. It was 10.5 million in the previous year. The expansion of the company is reflected in the noticeable increase in employees. The number of employees increased from 60 (end of 1999) to over 200 (end of 2000). The subsidiary company Deutsche Solar GmbH has also developed positively in respect to volume and return. Together with Deutsche Solar, SolarWorld AG earned a yield of 105 million marks in the past business year. In October, SolarWorld took over the former Bayer Solar GmbH from Bayer AG in Leverkusen. With that, Germany's only producer of silicium wafers became the property of SolarWorld AG. Bayer AG holds an 8.5% stake in SolarWorld AG stock.

The SolarWorld AG stock prices correspond to the ratification of the EEG and the flow
of credit for the 100,000 Roof Program.

Source: OnVista AG

The EEG and the prospect of a solar electricity pay-compensation of 99 pfennigs were filling the contract books of small and medium-sized companies at the same time. Though indeed, the slow processing of loans, market shortages of modules, and rising prices for solar cells always makes criticism loud.

The solar energy installers feel held back due to credit approval delays. The rising prices have had a negative effect for the consumer as well as solar energy installers, comments Rolf Schmidt, from the Tübingen Engineering Bureau "Suntech", on the development since early in the year. Only when the demand leads to an expansion of production capacity and falling prices, could the political support be considered a success. The "Engineering Bureau for Integral Building and Regenerative Energy Technology" installed around 35% more Photovoltaic systems than last year. The total operating performance of the new solar power systems amounts to approximately 50 Kilowatts. There is a backlog of contracts in 10 Kilowatts volume waiting to be mounted. However, the approximate increase of 10% in solar thermal systems does not entirely correspond to the nationwide trend. All the same, about 30 systems with a collector surface of over 300 square meters have been implemented on roofs in the Tübingen area. Suntech Manager Schmidt is forming a new trend concerning solar heating: more and more customers are demanding integrated solutions for the purpose of the upcoming energy-saving regulations. The demand for passive houses is rising markedly.

By the end of 2000, there were necessary reasons to "open the keg", as the Hamburg Solara AG suggested in a circular. The company is calculating on an unflagging increase in Solar energy systems- and good business. The first steps in the solar millennium have been taken, and the direction is correct.

Translation: Mary Meier

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