Solar Power and German Ideologues

Der Spiegel has provided us with another edifying example of the difference between sound public policy and ideological grandstanding. It turns out that the outgoing Social Democratic (SPD) “Minister of the Environment,” Sigmar Gabriel, has saddled the German people with a gift that will keep on giving in the form of a debt of at least 27 billion Euros. It comes in the form of a clause in Germany’s “Renewable Energy Law” that grants a subsidy of 43 Cents per kilowatt-hour to producers of solar power – five times higher than the cost of conventional power. But wait, it gets better; the subsidy will remain in effect for at least the next 20 years. And, by the way, that’s just for the facilities that were built between 2000 and 2008. Meanwhile, new facilities are being built hand over fist. About 2000 additional megawatts are expected to come on line in 2009, providing German consumers with another heaping helping of debt to the tune of 9 or 10 billion Euros. This remarkable example of ideological dilettantism has, at least, resulted in the creation of many new jobs – in China. Following a predictable pattern, German solar cell producers have been ramping down production at home and transferring it to Asia. Meanwhile, as Der Spiegel points out, the subsidies have had such “environmentally friendly” effects as

…keeping the world price of solar panels artificially high. The result: international producers are flooding the German market with solar modules – and very little is left for other countries, in spite of the fact that a solar facility in Africa could produce substantially more electricity than in rainy Germany.

All this comes at a time when the actual cost of solar modules has been in free fall. Spiegel cites an article in the German trade magazine “Photon,” according to which, “Solar power can now be produced much more cheaply than the high subsidies would lead one to believe.”

Judging by the quantitative results, we must assume that wind has been less afflicted by ideological meddling than solar in Germany. Wind facilities currently provide six percent of her power, as opposed to solar’s contribution of less than one percent.

Author: Helian

I am Doug Drake, and I live in Maryland, not far from Washington, DC. I am a graduate of West Point, and I hold a Ph.D. in nuclear engineering from the University of Wisconsin. My blog reflects my enduring fascination with human nature and human morality.

2 thoughts on “Solar Power and German Ideologues”

  1. the cost of Solar Cells for Solar Energy utilization has been decreasing over the past years. pretty soon, solar energy would be a more viable alternative than fossil fuels,-

  2. I hope that’s true. The point of my post was not to oppose solar power, but to point out the drawbacks of the German government’s scheme to “promote” it.

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