Meyer Burger: Solar shutdown in Saxony: Americans and Chinese will laugh their heads off

This article is adapted from the business magazine Capital and is available here for ten days.

Meyer Burger: Solar shutdown in Saxony: Americans and Chinese will laugh their heads off

This article is adapted from the business magazine Capital and is available here for ten days. Afterwards it will only be available to read at www.capital.de. Like stern, Capital belongs to RTL Deutschland.

It is a drama that has been dragging on for months: Because of the ruinous price war sparked by Chinese companies, the remaining solar manufacturers in Germany are threatening to close their production if politicians do not intervene in the market. Meanwhile, the traffic light coalition is discussing new funding instruments for domestic manufacturers in an endless loop - without coming to a decision.

Now comes the next step in this drama: The Swiss company Meyer Burger, which produces solar cells and modules in two plants in Saxony-Anhalt and Saxony, announced on Friday that it would stop module production in Freiberg, Saxony, in March. Reason: There is “no decision yet on political support measures to remedy the current market distortions caused by oversupply and dumping prices for solar modules”. Now we can start preparing for the closure. Meyer Burger sees its future in the USA, where the company – lured with massive subsidies – is currently setting up plants for solar cells and modules.

But even after this announcement, the months-long Mikado game over the future of the local solar industry is not yet over. If the traffic light comes to an agreement on new funding by March 14th, the closure of the plant can still be averted, said Meyer Burger boss Gunter Erfurt. But for this to happen, the FDP in particular would have to move in the Bundestag.

The Liberal energy politicians have so far rejected a new funding instrument that would compensate for the cost disadvantages of European manufacturers compared to the state-supported solar giants from China. In contrast, it is not only Economics Minister Robert Habeck, his Green Party and the energy politicians of the SPD who want to keep their own solar production in Germany and prevent complete dependence on China for this technology. The federal states have also called on the federal government to support the industry in order to secure the plants.

The crucial question now will be whether the FDP can maintain its rejection of market intervention when the price for it becomes concrete. Unlike more than a decade ago, when a funding cut by the then black-yellow federal government contributed significantly to driving the world's leading German solar industry into bankruptcy and migration to the Far East, the political consequences would now be much more immediate - namely in the form of immediate following factory closure at Meyer Burger and probably also at other manufacturers. And they would be associated exclusively with the FDP - not just in Saxony, where there are state elections this year.

Whether there is any movement in the traffic lights also depends on whether Economics Minister Habeck is prepared to fight for his demand for the preservation of the domestic solar industry. The Vice Chancellor has spoken out several times in favor of the so-called resilience bonuses, i.e. higher funding for European-made solar systems. But so far he has not been willing to risk a dispute with the FDP.

Given the large number of conflicts in the traffic lights, this is understandable from an internal coalition perspective. But it makes his urgent warnings about the energy and security policy risks of total solar dependence on China sound rather hollow.

Another announcement from Meyer Burger shows how inconsistent, downright absurd, the industrial policy of the federal government and the traffic light coalition is on this topic: it has received an export credit guarantee from the federal government of up to 95 million US dollars for the expansion of its solar plants in the USA, said the company with.

In plain language: The federal government is supporting the new US activities of the most important solar manufacturer in Germany - while it watches as the same company closes its existing production in Germany. The impression that arises is that the federal government even provides funding if an industrial company withdraws its production from Germany. The Americans and the Chinese will laugh their heads off about this.

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