East German Energy Forum: Central German solar industry is at risk

Dumping prices for solar modules, industrial electricity prices, hydrogen - these are the things that keep energy companies busy at the 12th East German Energy Forum in Leipzig.

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Man sieht einen Solarpark im Sonnenuntergang.
Will the German solar industry soon be reduced to a shadowy existence? © kairospress

From Luisa Zenker

The Central German solar industry is in danger, this became clear once again at the 12th East German Energy Forumthat these days in Leipzig is taking place. "We are in an economic war, in a conflict," describes Saxony's Prime Minister Michael Kretschmer (CDU) the current situation of the renewable energy industry. Due to the Inflation Reaction Act, or import freeze, of the USA, cheap Chinese solar modules are now flooding the European market. "This jeopardizes everything we are building here in terms of solar companies. ", Kretschmer continued.

"I call for fair competitive conditions," says Solarwatt CEO Detlef Neuhaus. His Dresden-based company, with 820 employees, produces and sells photovoltaic systems. Add to that favorable subsidies in the U.S., which most recently helped Freiberg-based Solar company Meyer Burger I could build a company there with several gigawatts in nine months. I could produce there for free. Innovation doesn't help there either," said the Solarwatt CEO. He believes the future solar industry will reach the size of the automotive industry. To combat cheap prices, Saxony's government suggests, for example, that the European Union buy up photovoltaic modules and make them available to Ukraine, or link standards to imported photovoltaic systems. "There are instruments, but you have to take them," said Michael Kretschmer, who sees protective tariffs as a last resort.

Opponents and supporters of the industrial electricity price

Prime Minister Haseloff (CDU) from Saxony-Anhalt therefore draws a bow to the controversial industrial electricity price: "Do we want to get every solar panel, every wind turbine, what we have on the fields, from China?" Suppliers would also benefit from the industrial electricity price, he explains. According to the Ministry of Energy, about 160 companies in Saxony would get something from the so-called bridge electricity price.

But not everyone is enthusiastic about the bridge electricity price. In a vote at the forum, 62 percent of participants oppose the industrial electricity price. Even Michael Kretschmer, while supporting the temporary industrial electricity price with the "Brussels Declaration of the Länder," speaks against it. He asks where the bridge ends, when the point is reached when companies will stand on their own feet again, independent of government subsidies.

Global dependence on energy commodities

But it is the dependence on global energy resources in general that concerns the East German Forum. Not only in the case of natural gas, but everyone wants a piece of the promising hydrogen that represents the solution for the energy turnaround. However, the demand exceeds the production capacities in Germany.

Professor Ferdi Schüth of the Max Planck Institute for Coal Research therefore explains: "We don't have to become energy self-sufficient in Germany, at the moment we are dependent on energy imports such as gas for about 85 percent." Germany should aim for a quota of 50 percent and organize these energy imports from many regions of the world, he says, so as not to become dependent on one country, as the mistakes of the past have taught us and will again tempt us to save money this winter. Hans-Joachim Polk, Member of the Board of Management for Technology and Infrastructure at VNG AG, warns: "The storage facilities are well filled, currently around 94 percent nationwide, and the market is sufficiently liquid. Saving energy nevertheless remains important. However, a very cold winter could tighten the situation again." VNG is a European gas importer based in Leipzig.

However, criticism does not bypass the East German Energy Forum. Thus, at the beginning of the event, some environmentalists from BUND Saxony protested in front of the doors. They are calling for a decentralized and participatory energy transition. This means a maximum remaining lignite production volume in the Lusatian region of 205 million tons by 2030, they said. "Leag should not remain an energy monopolist in a green coat," said Yelena Zimdahl of Bund Sachsen, criticizing the Czech group, which is responsible for lignite production and is currently investing heavily in the expansion of green energies.

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