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Environment, Global Affairs

Saving Solar Power in Germany

German Solar Park.

For most of the past winter, Germany’s 1.1 million solar power systems that crisscross the country have sat relatively idle. Overcast skies and a relative lack of sunshine has meant the powerful solar-generating system has produced little energy, forcing Germany to import electricity from nuclear power plants in neighbouring France and the Czech Republic.

Public discontent at the high cost of electricity and increasingly shaky support from the coalition government headed by Chancellor Angela Merkel are threatening to undermine German advances in solar-power generation. Merkel has long touted the sector’s “opportunities for exports, development, technology and jobs,” but she will find it increasingly difficult to defend when members of her own ruling Christian Democratic Union are calling the system a “money pit.”

Germans pay the second-highest amount for electricity in Europe, and most of that due to the massive state investment in renewable energy. The government has spent more than €8 billion in subsidies in 2011 alone to solar farm operators and individuals with small-scale solar plants on their roofs through a feed-in-tariff (FIT) program. In total, solar power generated just 3 per cent of the total energy supply Germany needs, and at “unpredictable times.”

The future of the German solar power system is at a crossroads. Ontario modeled its own Green Energy Act on the German FIT system, and is currently conducting a mandatory two-year review of the system to deal with similar criticisms of ballooning expense and low power generation.

Can Green Energy survive in Germany?

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A shorter version of this piece ran in Toronto Standard on 01/19/2012.

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About awreeves

Geography MA Environmentalist Citizen

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