7:15. Arrival at Munich Airport. Rain. This is how the day started on Intersolar 2011 taking place in Munich from June 8 to 10. The April weather would last all day. And, Germany’s energy policy looked like April weather at this time as well. In particular the solar industry had to expect significant cuts in terms of the compensation for electricity fed into the grid.
On its 20th anniversary, visitors to Intersolar Europe 2011 experienced a trade show that presented a really “mature” industry. Those who came to Intersolar a decade before could hardly foresee this dynamic development. Top level booth design, marketing and communication characterized the 168,000 sqm of exhibition space. Compared with many established companies in the energy sector, the industry has learned to communicate with customers and citizens and build up clear brand cores. This helps the industry now to successfully sustain under different market conditions.
This is so important because the business and market development (not only) in Germany directly depends on the political environment based on the Renewable Energy Sources Act (Erneuerbare-Energien-Gesetz, EEG). Under such conditions, one would expect that companies primarily control their resources through lobbying activities. This has not been the case in the solar industry as Munich showed.
Intersolar 2011 once again illustrated the massive increase in significance of Asian and Chinese manufacturers.
This trend is also reflected in the political debate about the solar industry. Not only are cost and competitive advantages of Chinese manufacturers regarded as critical, but also the flow of funds to Asian manufacturers associated with the EEG levy. One would like to protect the recently established domestic industry and fears a long-term loss of legitimacy among German consumers who drive renewable energies as power customers. A populist argument which is unlikely to endure in the export country Germany.
April weather can today be considered as the epitome of the German energy policy over the last 12 months. The breathtaking turnaround in the German nuclear policy will reverberate for a very long time. The political, social and economic costs associated with the nuclear exit adopted at the end of June by the Bundestag are changing structures and hardly reversible.
On the same day, the Bundestag also decided on the future remuneration and conditions for renewable energies. The worst steps like the ones around the discussion of introducing a “cap” on solar subsidies did not take place and cuts were less significant than expected. But, it has also become clear that competition for the distribution of renewable energies will increase, while political weight threatens to be lost. Representatives of the “fossil energy industry“ will continue to enjoy the political April weather because again, the implementation of new energy strategy of the Federal Government is subject to tactical considerations.
In any case, that day on Intersolar ended with sunshine and beautiful views for the next days.