In June 2012 the German Bundestag and Bundesrat adopted a reform of state support for photovoltaics. One year on, Federal Environment Minister Peter Altmaier is pleased with the positive impact it has had: "The reform is working. The expansion of photovoltaics is now on a sustainable path."
"The success of the reform of state support for photovoltaics has exceeded all the expectations we had back when it was adopted," Peter Altmaier said. "After two previous legislative amendments that were largely ineffective, the reform has for the first time fully achieved its objectives."
After three years of record expansion rates with more than 7,000 megawatts being added per year, the expansion will for the first time drop back down to the intended level of 2,500 to 3,500 megawatts in 2013. At present approximately 300 to 350 megawatts in capacity is being added each month; by the end of June the additional capacity for 2013 totalled 1,800 megawatts. That represents a fall of 40 to 50 per cent, but still a considerable expansion that is entirely within the target range defined in the context of the transformation of the energy system.
The tariffs paid for photovoltaic power were drastically reduced by two thirds in recent years (by up to 30 per cent in 2012 alone). The tariff currently paid for small installations is 15.07 cents and for free-standing installations 10.44 cents. The tariffs for free-standing installations will fall below 10 cents for the first time this autumn.
Costs incurred on account of new installations have dropped by around 85 per cent since 2010. While the systems installed in 2010 gave rise to differential costs of around 2.2 billion euros, those installed in 2013 will only result in costs of 300 million euros.
Cost degression not only slowed down the dynamic rate of expansion that had recently got out of control, it has also changed the structure of that expansion. New installations are increasingly being mounted for users’ own consumption, which further reduces the differential costs for the surcharge arising from the Renewable Energy Sources Act (EEG surcharge). This new expansion of photovoltaic installations is thus no longer driving up the costs of the EEG surcharge. The effect of the additional expansion will likely be less than 0.1 cent per kilowatt hour in 2013.
Germany currently has an installed photovoltaic capacity of 34 gigawatts. The subsidies for new installations will expire once that capacity reaches 52 gigawatts. It can thus be assumed that photovoltaics will be economically viable without feed-in tariffs from 2017/2018.