Electricity from solar power is an essential part of the planned energy transition, but the German economy has so far been heavily dependent on imports from the People's Republic of China for expansion. The communist-controlled Middle Kingdom is by far the most important importer of photovoltaic systems, as reported by the Federal Statistical Office on Wednesday. Last year, 87 percent of the relevant imports came from China. At EUR 3.1 billion, their value more than doubles that of German exports (EUR 1.4 billion).
Volker Quaschning, professor at the Berlin University of Applied Sciences, warned months ago: "Should the supply be interrupted for whatever reason, this will have a direct impact on the further success of the energy transition." In other words: "If China invades Taiwan, the German energy transition may be over for the time being."
The German manufacturers have recently started catching up, as the statistics authorities have also registered. In the first nine months of 2022, 2.9 million solar modules were built in Germany, around 44 percent more than in 2021 and 75 percent more than in the same period of the pre-Corona year 2019. The renaissance of the once successful German solar industry seems to have begun . According to the industry association BSW, the industry can currently produce PV modules with a capacity of just over 3 gigawatts a year, a good 40 percent of the domestic expansion last year.
Association: Market conditions excellent
China is by far the dominant solar producer and comes close to a production share of 100 percent for some preliminary products and raw materials, says Wolfgang Weber from the Association of Electrical and Digital Industry Associations ZVEI. If solar power is to cover 30 to 40 percent of energy requirements in this country in the future, it seems sensible to also focus on local production in order to reduce one-sided dependencies. When building and promoting industry, however, the entire system, including the power grid and important components such as semiconductors, must be considered, Weber warns.
Basically, the market conditions are excellent, as the German Solar Industry Association (BSW) describes: In 2022, the demand for solar power systems has grown by double digits for the sixth year in a row. Demand for private real estate has quadrupled in the last four years. The association also expects demand for solar technology to continue to increase in 2023. According to a self-commissioned survey, two out of three homeowners are toying with the idea of having their own solar power system.
The BSW demands that the state should help the industry with subsidy programs and risk protection. The main obstacle to further solar expansion on the roofs are complex bureaucratic processes, the electrical trade also complains. As with heat pumps and charging devices for e-cars, there are no uniform procedures for PV systems among the more than 800 network operators, but there are changing funding scenarios. Customers as well as companies need planning security above all, demands the Federal Guild Association ZVEH. This could be remedied above all by constant feed-in tariffs and a sustainable subsidy framework.
Around 2.5 million photovoltaic systems
In November 2022, around 2.5 million photovoltaic systems with a nominal output of almost 64 gigawatts were installed on the roofs and properties of households and companies in Germany. That was 14 percent more than a year earlier, while installed power output increased by 13 percent. For comparison: The federal government plans for 2030 with a tripled capacity of 215 gigawatts. Ten years later it should even be 400 gigawatts.
According to BSW estimates, almost 62 terawatt hours of solar power were fed into the grid in 2022, which was a record and an increase of around 20 percent compared to the same period last year. The share of photovoltaics in power generation rose by 3 points to 12 percent. In the sunny month of June, the solar share was even 20 percent at 7.6 terrwatt hours, as Destatis added.