Going solar: a German success story
Germany is a remarkable renewable energy success story. Today, the country gets about 25% of its electricity from renewable energy sources, up from less than 7% fourteen years ago. Out of that total share of renewable power, about 20% comes from solar.
Germany ranks top in the list of countries in terms of photovoltaic total (PV) capacity and per capita, above Italy, USA, China and Japan. By the end of 2012, more than 32 GW of PV capacity were installed in Germany (see Figure 1) , covering about 5% of the total annual gross electricity generation. Certainly, policy support has been a major driver in encouraging PV systems acquisition and enhancing such major clean energy achievements .
Figure 1. Three year schematic comparison of installed solar photovoltaic (PV) systems across Germany. The area of the circles represents the total installed capacity per location; from January 2009 until January 2013 , 860,000 systems were installed across the country. Source (Davis and Chmieliauskas, 201 3).
In the national policy sphere, three programmes have been key drivers in promoting German solar power:
- 1000 Solar roofs programme (1989); providing rebates for up to 60% of system costs;
- 100,000 Solar Roofs Programme (1999); programme funded with 560 million euros, providing 10-year low-interest loans with no money down and no interest payments for two years (equivalent to a 20% subsidy); and,
- The Renewable Energy Sources Act (EEG) (2000); providing priority access to renewable energy to the greed and guaranteeing preference feed-in tariffs for electricity production.
Additionally to these national schemes, municipalities across Germany also offer production incentives for small PV installations, and German banks loan money for the construction of small and large scale PV systems installations. To illustrate, the German Development Banks loans up to 10 million euros (at special interest rate) for renewable energy projects; similar schemes for money loaning easy access also applies to small PV systems projects [g]. Furthermore, in Germany, anyone owning a house is eligible for a 15 year loan at fixed interest rate[h] for the installation of renewable power systems.
To a large extent, all this incentives have created a stable market environment for solar PV technologies in Germany. Currently, there are over 136 companies across Germany involved in the whole value chain of photovoltaics (namely, equipment, PV modules, materials and system components manufacturing). Besides, in 2012, around 110, 000 people were working in the German PV industry.