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German Solar Subsidies Are Questioned

They appear to helping China's exporters even more than domestic PV manufacturers

1 min read

Frank Asbeck, CEO of Solarworld AG, one of the Germany's top makers of photovoltaics, is suggesting that the country sharply reduce its generous solar subsidies. His proposition is controversial and does not appear to be widely supported among the country's other leading PV manufacturers. But it could have some resonance with Angela Merkel's conservative government, which consolidated its position notably in last week's national election. One immediate effect of that victory is likely to be reconsideration and possibly even the repeal of Germany's nuclear energy phase-out plan--Merkel has long advocated an "exit from the nuclear exit." Another could be a reduction in solar subsidies which free marketeers dislike almost by definition, and which appear now to be helping Chinese PV makers more than German.

Before the election, Germany's parliament decided to shave solar subsidies by 8-10 percent over the next three years. Asbeck has suggested cuts of about 15 percent, to be coupled with stricter quality and environmental requirements for photovoltaics exported to Germany.

 

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This photograph shows a car with the words “We Drive Solar” on the door, connected to a charging station. A windmill can be seen in the background.

The Dutch city of Utrecht is embracing vehicle-to-grid technology, an example of which is shown here—an EV connected to a bidirectional charger. The historic Rijn en Zon windmill provides a fitting background for this scene.

We Drive Solar

Hundreds of charging stations for electric vehicles dot Utrecht’s urban landscape in the Netherlands like little electric mushrooms. Unlike those you may have grown accustomed to seeing, many of these stations don’t just charge electric cars—they can also send power from vehicle batteries to the local utility grid for use by homes and businesses.

Debates over the feasibility and value of such vehicle-to-grid technology go back decades. Those arguments are not yet settled. But big automakers like Volkswagen, Nissan, and Hyundai have moved to produce the kinds of cars that can use such bidirectional chargers—alongside similar vehicle-to-home technology, whereby your car can power your house, say, during a blackout, as promoted by Ford with its new F-150 Lightning. Given the rapid uptake of electric vehicles, many people are thinking hard about how to make the best use of all that rolling battery power.

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