German Photovoltaic Feed-in Tariff Frenzy

Proposed Photovoltaic (PV) rooftop Feed-in Tariff (FiT) cuts said to be delayed.
If nothing else, it’s the weather!

From German PV FiT Frenzy 2010, Source: BMU

In the latest FiT political twist, “Germany aims to delay solar incentive cuts: sources” by Markus Wacket for Reuters Green Business said:

German Environment Minister Norbert Roettgen wants to delay some of the proposed cuts for solar power incentives, government sources told Reuters on Friday, a move that is unlikely to alter the gloomy outlook for the industry.

Roettgen’s proposed 15-percent cuts in solar power incentives for roof-mounted systems is to be implemented from May 1 rather than April 1, the sources said.

As shown in the above graphic, “Eckpunkte der künftigen Photovoltaikvergütung im EEG” (German only) outlines Minister Röttgen’s proposed one time PV FiT reductions in addition to the January 1, 2010, degression:

  • April 1, 2010: Roof-mounted PV FiT reduced 15%
  • July 1, 2010:  Ground-mounted PV FiT reduced 15% on disturbed land and an additional 10% (total 25%) on arable farmland. The end of 2014 deadline for ground-mounted systems is repealed.
  • April 1, 2010: Direct use PV incentive is exempt from the one time reduction to encourage self use of kiloWatt-hours (kWh) produced.

Minister Röttgen’s proposal also raises the degression penalties for 2010 installations above 3 GigaWatts (GW) to 2.5% at 3.5 GW and an additional 2.5% for each further GigaWatt above the target until 6.5 GW.

Reuters also said:

Roof installation of solar cells and modules are traditionally weak in the first quarter due to the cold weather and given the icy winter in Germany, this year is unlikely to be any different.

With the extreme German winter season, the spring thaw is almost certain to be postponed until late April or May. I have to wonder what iSuppli was thinking when proposing a fourth quarter response to the April 1 FiT revisions in the dead of winter? “iSuppli forecasts impact of Germany’s FiT cuts in 2010” by Mark Osborne at PV-tech.org includes a chart displaying iSuppli’s first quarter 2010 PV installation forecast of 200 MegaWatts (MW) in January, 300 MW in February, and a whopping 600 MW installed in March before the FiT reduction. I don’t believe the forecast is realistic even if Groundhog Day has a positive outcome.

Weather alone is enough reason to delay the April rooftop FiT reduction until June 1, 2010, or July 1, 2010. Otherwise, PV installers may feel pressured by FiT economics to perform unsafe installations in cold and icy conditions risking injury to beat an April Fools’ Day deadline.

A political soap opera is underway as PV industry stakeholders, Renewable Energy Law (EEG) detractors, and moderates vie to shape the revised FiT legislation for 2010 and beyond. photovoltaik has almost daily coverage of FiT developments, alas all are in German.

In “Weitere Absenkung der Solarförderung ist falsches Signal” (German only), East German Economics Minsters from the states of Brandenburg, Saxony, Saxony-Anhalt, and Thuringia declared the proposed FiT cuts send the wrong signal and jeopardize PV manufacturing jobs clustered in the region. Later, Bavaria followed per “German CSU wants delays in solar incentive cuts” by Thorsten Severin for Reuters which said:

Hans-Peter Friedrich, CSU leader in parliament, said the proposal by Environment Minister Norbert Roettgen to cut the feed-in tariff should be pushed back by three months to July 1 for rooftop systems and Sept. 1 for open field systems.

The CSU (Christian Social Union) forms the Union faction with Chancellor Angela Merkel’s Christian Democratic Union (CDU) and governs Germany since last fall’s elections in coalition with the FDP (Free Democratic Party), the so called Liberal party. CSU votes are crucial to passing the FiT reductions, so I expect the delays and perhaps lower reductions could still be negotiated in a compromise. Bavaria has the most annual and cumulative PV installations of any German state.

I think the CSU may be pleased with aggressive FiT reductions for ground-mounted PV on arable farmland. Utility scale projects like the proposed €115 million PV plant covering 195 hectares (482 acres) of farmland described in “Green blueblood’s solar project irks commoners” at The Local might become uneconomic with a 25% FiT reduction. Opposition has been growing in Germany to large free field PV installations on agricultural lands.

6 comments

  1. MarkEMark says:

    Hi Gunther

    I’ve been modeling the LCOE of German PV systems using what seem to be some reasonable assumptions.

    Installed costs of 3200 Euro/kW (BSW’s latest number)
    90% Availability, .77 derate factor, 829.1 kWh/kWp (Stuttgart), .5%/year degradation factor, 30 year loan financed at 6%, 4.02 WACC, $50/year fixed O&M.

    I’m coming up with a nominal LCOE of 29.34 cents/Watt. This makes the ROI for residential systems well over 10% (even after the proposed 15% FiT reduction).

    My calculation is for demonstration only but the number looks close. I’m surprised and disappointed that we haven’t seen a similar but more precise calculation performed by BSW – they are the one’s compiling the average system cost data – they are the ones most equipped to translate that system cost and performance data into $/kWh production costs. Add a 10% profit margin and you’ve got your new FiT rate and a final end to the Reuters stories.

    Am I missing something?

  2. disdaniel says:

    That installed cost seems low to me (although I would love to see numbers like that). What size installation are you modeling?

  3. MarkEMark says:

    The figure comes from Germany’s Solar Industry Association (BSW). I rounded the number off in the example above – it’s 3263 Euro/kWp in the link. They call this price, “… the net system price per kilo watt peak (kWp).”

    http://en.solarwirtschaft.de/fileadmin/content_files/Faktenblatt_PV_EN_sep09.pdf

    I’m not modelling a particular system size. I’m looking at what the $/kWh production costs would be if the system cost 3200 Euro/kWp, insolation was X, financing was Y, etc.

    The ASPs at the end of Q3 were grouped around $2.00/Watt. I figure ASPs stayed relatively flat in Q4 due to the rush in demand from Germany – Perhaps ASPs went down 5% to $1.90/Watt. During 2010 I could see ASPs falling down another 15% to the $1.60/Watt range.

    If you factor in this hypothetical reduction in solar panel prices during this next year you can get an idea for how the overall system price will change. If you know the system price you can estimate production costs and by extension the ROI. Perhaps it’s more art than science – I’m just trying to apply some reason to the problem. My basic conclusion is that falling solar panel prices and incremental improvements in BOS costs should be able to stay ahead of the falling FiT over the next two years.

  4. JoeJoe says:

    System prices in Germany are averaging $2750/kWp.

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