Very interesting year for PV around the world. The ‘solar rush’, led by numerous support policies enacted in the second half of the 2000s decade, by the spectacular entry of China on the world market, and by a drive to produce ‘green jobs’ to revitalize the ailing manufacturing sector of several industrialized countries, has gone a little too fast for some markets. As is usually the case for rapidly expanding industries, it appears it is now time for a serious restructuring. Several large players have already gone belly-up. The PV industry, it seems, will look quite different in a few months from what it was at the beginning of 2012. The question is, of course, what will happen to the drive for PV installations as governments pull back support.

Germany, the hailed dean of renewable electricity expansion, has not escaped these developments, far from it. With an astonishing 28GW of installed capacity for PV electricity generation, Germany is also dealing with important changes in its own industry but also in its policy support. In June 2012, after three months of harsh debates on modifications to the EEG (the major piece of legislation supporting PV and other renewables), the German Parliament has adopted amendments that will affect not only PV deployment rates, but also the very way that PV is deployed across the country. Now that panel prices have dropped to a small fraction of what they were 5 years ago, and now that electricity generation from renewables (including PV) presents costs that are at parity with electricity retail rates in several regions, the German government is trying to shift gears. We are now at a junction, where PV deployment has ceased to be so hard and expensive that we do ‘whatever we can’ to pursue it. The Germans are now attempting to modify how developers and other actors see and think about PV electricity, not as a promising niche industry but as a full-fledged component of electricity markets.

These changes are intended to produce a different type of planning for PV installations, where developers are encouraged to seek means other than FIT support, and to think carefully about electricity markets when choosing where to site their projects. This is the step that comes logically after a successful FIT program. It will be fascinating to see how that market, which has shown in the past few years how impressively quickly it can change and adapt, deals with these new times. A short-term future that looks promising, and definitely interesting, as I said at the beginning. Stay tuned!

Yours truly,

Simon Langlois-Bertrand

PhD Candidate, Norman Paterson School of International Affairs, Carleton University

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