Solar industry: After traffic light agreement: Meyer Burger believes solar expansion is still possible

Even after the traffic light coalition agreed on cuts in solar subsidies, the solar company Meyer Burger still believes it is possible to build up additional capacity in Germany.

Solar industry: After traffic light agreement: Meyer Burger believes solar expansion is still possible

Even after the traffic light coalition agreed on cuts in solar subsidies, the solar company Meyer Burger still believes it is possible to build up additional capacity in Germany. An increase in production capacity for cells and modules as part of the Federal Ministry of Economics' expression of interest process is also fundamentally "still planned" in the revised climate and transformation fund, Meyer Burger boss Gunter Erfurt told Capital. Erfurt added that there are still discussions with the federal government about this. He also referred to the recent funding commitment for Meyer Burger at EU level amounting to 200 million euros. This could potentially compensate for cuts at the national level, he said.

The traffic light presented an agreement for the 2024 federal budget on Wednesday after weeks of wrangling. A package of savings and increases in taxes is intended to compensate for the gap created by the Federal Constitutional Court's ruling on the Climate and Transformation Fund (KTF). The list of savings also includes the planned funding for the reconstruction of the solar industry, which Federal Economics Minister Robert Habeck (Greens) is pushing forward in order to reduce Europe's massive dependence on Chinese manufacturers. On Wednesday, Habeck listed the cuts in the solar sector as one of the decisions that “hurt” him. The domestic solar industry is currently suffering from a sharp drop in prices, not least triggered by dumping prices from producers in China, who dominate the world market. Meyer Burger had recently repeatedly warned against shifting more investments to the USA, where the state lures greentech companies with generous subsidies.

Specifically, the cut that has now been decided affects a program with which the federal government wants to promote "lighthouses" in the solar industry - such as the listed Swiss company Meyer Burger, Europe's only gigawatt-scale solar cell manufacturer, which has been producing cells and modules in Saxony-Anhalt and Saxony since 2020. This is about investment support for the development of additional production capacities. For 2024 and 2025, the funding amount reserved in the KTF is now to be reduced by half. However, the process launched by Habeck's ministry in the summer to allow companies to register interest in the program will be continued. "There has been no change on the political agenda to rebuild the solar industry in Germany," said Erfurt. Overall, the signals from Berlin are “significantly more positive” than the initial reactions to the traffic light budget agreement suggested. However, as a result of the cut, the capacity expansion that the program is intended to encourage will probably be less than the originally planned ten gigawatts.

The Meyer Burger boss also emphasized that no cuts were planned in the area of ​​EEG funding or in the planned Solar Package 1. Since last year, the remuneration for solar and wind systems has also been financed entirely via the KTF. The Bundestag is currently discussing a solar package that, among other things, is intended to reduce bureaucracy for system operators. The solar industry and parts of the traffic light advocate that special funding categories for European-made photovoltaic systems be introduced as part of the legislative process. These are intended to compensate for cost disadvantages compared to Chinese manufacturers in the phase of rebuilding the domestic solar industry.

The energy companies RWE and EnBW had also recently advertised with Habeck for such “resilience tenders” and “resilience bonuses” based on a concept from the solar association BSW. According to BSW, the costs for this will be around 40 million euros next year, and later a three-digit million amount. Erfurt said that we are in close contact with the federal government on resilience funding together with other manufacturers. The SPD and the Greens support the concept, and parts of the Union are also open to it. The FDP has so far been slowing down.

There are also various initiatives at the EU level, so-called net zero industries, to strengthen the solar industry. Meyer Burger recently received a commitment of 200 million euros from a funding program from the EU Innovation Fund for a project called “Hope”. “We certainly have these resources,” said Erfurt. The amount covers part of the investment costs for the possible construction of cell and module factories with 3.5 gigawatts, for which the company applied as part of the EU innovation fund.

This article first appeared on "Capital"

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