Political and regulatory issues were a major topic of discussion at this year’s Forum Solar PLUS, the annual Berlin industry conference on solar power in the energy system, held this year from November 21 to 22.
The revision of the German and European electricity market design and the loss of funding from the Climate and Transformation Fund from this year’s federal budget sent shockwaves through the industry and was hotly debated at the event.
The participants at the Berlin conference wholeheartedly agreed that renewable energy sources define the system. The lively exchange on the issue was entirely dedicated to the question of how the energy system can be adapted in the future to ensure all the available renewable resources are integrated fully.
The mood at the conference therefore emphasized the shift away from an isolated view of solar energy or other renewable energy sources as pure generation technologies towards an electrified, decentralized, and digitalized energy system. The Forum Solar PLUS discussed how a functional electricity market should be designed with this in mind and what contributions storage devices and e-mobility can make, both as business models and to stabilize the system.
Another key topic in the German capital was the use of flexibility, i.e. the market and supply-oriented control of electricity consumption. One prerequisite for this is digitalization – the general consensus here was that Germany is lagging far behind its European neighbors, for example where the prevalence of smart meters is concerned.
The expansion of PV production capacities in Europe was also a much-discussed topic in Berlin. The industry representatives in attendance unanimously rejected protective tariffs against imported products, even though PV module prices are continuing to fall.
Carsten Körnig, CEO of the German Solar Association (BSW-Solar), spoke out in favor of introducing what is known as “resilience bonuses”. These would promote domestic production by introducing local content requirements in invitations to tender, for example.
However, it was clear to the audience that the loss of funding from the Climate and Transformation Fund could lead to a lack of financial resources to subsidize renewables in the future – money is also needed urgently in other areas.
A great effort on all parts, as well as resource pooling, are necessary if Germany is to meet its ambitious expansion target. According to speaker Herbert Diess, formerly Chairman of Volkswagen AG and the current Chairman of the Infineon Supervisory Board, this can only be achieved in cooperation with China, the world’s largest producer of solar equipment. He also spoke of the necessity to increase European production in the double-digit gigawatt range, which would allow us to establish functioning and competitive solar production companies.
Rising interest rates, inflation, increasing complexity of the technical variables within storage projects and more – the way the industry is headed, financing PV projects is going to present new challenges. Indeed, the evaluation of PV project profitability ensured that money remained the topic of discussion, especially given that negative electricity prices increase around midday and power plants have to be curtailed.
Where the latter is concerned, industry representatives presented innovative new business models at the forum and demonstrated both how a full supply of renewable energy can be achieved and how an energy supply with renewables can be taken to the next level.
Representatives of the solar and energy industry present at the Forum Solar PLUS were both confident and optimistic that they will overcome each challenge they face, as well as any as yet unresolved variables, in a manner that brings profit in the near future. The upward trend in solar energy, which is reflected in the ambitious expansion goals and the dynamically expanding market, was clearly noticeable and set the tone for the entire conference.