Under the french sun

After Germany and Spain, the French government is now also cutting solar power subsidies. Nevertheless, the market in the neighboring country remains attractive – also for German companies

Until now, the French solar power producers lived like God in France: to claim the renewable electricity, there were high rates of compensation. Even after the third consecutive shortening, which came into effect at the beginning of the week, the rates are still much higher than in Germany. Overall, the feed-in tariffs will be reduced by 12 percent. However, this only affects commercial solar power producers. Private households that install solar panels up to 30 square meters are excluded.

"The new reduction in tariffs did not come as a great shock to us," says Vael Elamine of the Syndicat pour les energies renouvelables (Renewable Energies Union). But it is irresponsible that the new tariffs were announced only a week beforehand, criticizes the union’s solar power expert. bankruptcies of smaller solar companies could therefore not be ruled out. After all, the government has already cut fares by a total of 40 percent since last year. "It’s starting to get critical for the French solar industry, too," Elamine says. He hopes that for now it will remain at the current shortages.

France follows Germany and Spain – on a low level

The French union for renewables does not deny that the remuneration must tend to decrease. The rough start-up phase is finally over in France as well: The industry has grown enormously in the last two years. The first rough run on solar panels came after the short notice last September. The country thus follows the two European solar pioneers Germany and Spain. In Germany, Federal Environment Minister Rottgen decided at the beginning of the year to impose a comprehensive cap on the rate of debt collection. The government of Jose Luis RodrIguez Zapatero, after last year’s immense cuts, even considered capping the allowance for existing facilities a few weeks ago.

Nevertheless, the French compensation remains relatively high: for example, French private operators of a solar system on the roof of their own house receive a compensation of 58 cents per kwh so far. In Germany, on the other hand, homeowners still get a maximum of 34 cents – and the trend is downward. Because already in the fall (1. October) comes the next degression wave. In addition, in France, without exception, all open land is required to pay up to 30 cents, in this country, the requirement of photovolatikananlagen on farmland has been since 1. July cancelled altogether. The price for commercial producers in France is still on average a quarter to two thirds higher than in Germany. Nevertheless, commercial production of solar power has been rather sluggish so far: 40 percent of installed solar power in France alone is private orders.

Compared to Germany, France is still a solar dwarf

But the high rewards are now also attracting German companies: In August, the Berlin-based solar company Solon SE took the precaution of setting up its own subsidiary in France. The market in the neighboring country is growing – and much more rapidly than the already rather saturated industry in Germany, where, moreover, remuneration is falling drastically every three months. This is due to the fact that France is still a very young solar country: Only in 2006 the first photovoltaic fields were registered – at the end of 2009 there were already 230 megawatts of installed capacity due to the high subsidies, at the end of this year it should be 850 MW.

Currently, France has moved up to fifth place in the European solar rankings, but unlike Germany, it is still more of a solar dwarf: in 2009 alone, installed capacity in this country has already risen to around 9.800 megawatts increased. France barely reaches this figure if it adds up all of its renewable electricity. The share of solar power in the renewable energy mix is also lower, at four percent – in Germany, photovolataik now already accounts for almost seven percent of renewable energy sources.

This is why the constant reductions in tariffs in the neighboring country should be taken with a grain of salt, criticizes the French trade union for renewable energies: The young solar industry needs above all stability and reliability from politicians. It cannot be that there are new rules every six months. In fact, the purchase tariffs were revised downwards only in January. Whereas there were previously only three purchase categories, six months ago there were five different prices, depending on the size and location of the system.

With atomic power it heats badly

In the long run, it is questionable anyway how France will integrate its renewable electricity. Nuclear power plants can hardly be flexibly regulated up and down – how both forms of energy are supposed to go together is still written in the stars. Neither has there ever been a nuclear consensus in France, let alone a serious discussion about shutting down old nuclear power plants. These still account for 80 percent of the country’s electricity and are currently being modernized step by step. But Sarkozy is also committed to European goals and wants to increase the share of renewables to 23 percent by 2020.

While France is still lagging behind in the field of electricity, it produces twice as much renewable heat as Germany. That’s why the country, together with renewable heat, now accounts for more than 12 percent of final energy consumption. This is certainly also due to the very expensive conventional heating methods in France: Since the country has hardly any coal and gas-fired power plants, most French people heat with expensive electric heaters – and often in buildings that are barely damped. Alternative solutions are therefore very much in demand. In Germany, on the other hand, the warm area is often referred to as a "sleeping giant" that still needs to be developed.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *