The German solar thermal market has shrunk yet again. The figures for 2012 show a 9% drop in sales compared to 2011. This year has been off to a very slow start as well: In the first quarter of 2013, collector area sales were down by 19% compared to the same period last year, according to the BDH/BSI statistics. The industry seems to finally wake up to the harsh reality, conceding that something is fundamentally wrong with the market’s development. Signs of a wake-up call were quite apparent at the yearly Solar Thermal Energy Symposium, which took place at the end of April and had been organised by the German East-Bavarian Institute for Technology Transfer, OTTI. This time, there was none of the usual talk about being patient and letting the high oil price do its work. At the start of the event, representatives from associations, scientific institutes and the Federal Environment Ministry spoke openly about the industry’s home-grown problems.
The first conference “Solar District Heating – Technical solutions, urban planning and business models” took place in the Swedish town of Malmö on 9 and 10 April 2013. It brought together 120 participants from 19 countries: manufacturers, district heating companies, scientists and industry associations. Examples from Sweden made clear that it is not easy to integrate solar heat into a system which has not been designed for it. The main topics in the presentations from Sweden were operation issues and the question what is a fair price for solar heat. But an ongoing discussion in Germany illustrates that the integration of solar into district heating networks also has strong economic and political elements. The photo shows the conference participants visiting a solar plant operated by E.ON Sweden in the Western Harbour of Malmö.
After a long debate, the tax bill for the energy-efficient modernisation of buildings died before being enacted. In summer 2011, the German parliament had agreed on the law, which was to become part of the German climate action plan. But because it would have affected the states’ budgets, their approval was needed as well. In January 2013, the Federal Council (the legislative body representing the states) announced that efforts to mediate between the federal government and the states had ultimately failed to delivery any results. The draft will not become law. There will be no tax credit for insulating one’s house. Property owners, however, can still pass 11 % of the costs on to the tenants each year.
Photo: Viktor Mildenberger/pixelio.de
Despite a good start, 2012 has not seen any upturn in the German solar thermal industry, as latest figures show. Carsten Kuhlmann (in the middle) from the heating manufacturers association BDH expects a newly installed collector area of 1.2 million m², which would be 5 % less than in 2011. The number was part of Kuhlmann’s presentation at the Forum Solarpraxis, a conference in Berlin, Germany, at which scientists, associations and industry representatives discussed the future of solar heating and cooling at the end of November. The photo shows the German renewable energy journalist Dr. Detlef Koenemann (left) and moderator of the session and Jörg Mayer, Managing Director of the German solar industry association BSW Solar.
The Federal Environment Ministry has approved new frame conditions for the MAP, the national Market Rebate Programme for Renewable Energies. Since 15 August, house owners have been receiving a minimum subsidy of EUR 1,500 for a solar combi system, which supplies hot water and space heating. The original tariff of 90 EUR/m2 stays in place additionally. The German Environment Minister, Peter Altmaier (see photo), has also reinforced the state’s commitment to process heat: Clients can now receive a subsidy of 50 % of the net investment costs under the MAP programme. So far, the only measure to cover part of the investment costs (30%) had been a low-interest loan by the German KfW banking group.
Photo: German Environment Ministry
With half a year delay, the German solar industry association Bundesverband Solarwirtschaft (BSW Solar) officially presented its Roadmap for Solar Heat at the Intersolar Europe in June 2012. The roadmap describes scenarios to develop solar thermal in Germany and shows the policies needed to implement them. While the roadmap’s outlook is being criticised for sounding too optimistic, one of the authors, Matthias Reitzenstein, emphasises that the paper is not meant to be a prediction of what will happen but rather a guide about what needs to be done.
Chart: Roadmap of Solar Heat, BSW Solar
On 13 June, it was time for the fifth Intersolar Award at the Intersolar Europe in Munich. The solar industry’s international prize pays tribute to companies, products and services in the categories of Photovoltaics, Solar Thermal Technologies and PV Production Technologies. It was awarded to nine companies – three from each category. Lucky winners in the Solar Thermal Technologies category are Shimon and Zvika Klier from Tigi Ltd, Israel, Pierro Abbate and Vittorio Palmieri from TVP Solar, Switzerland, and Francesco and Vittorio Orioli from Soltigua – Laterizi Gambettola SRL, Italy (from left to right). Photo: Stephanie Banse
From 9 to 11 July 2012, San Francisco will host the International Conference on Solar Heating and Cooling for Buildings and Industry – the SHC 2012. The science conference is organised by the International Energy Agency's Solar Heating and Cooling Programme (IEA SHC) in cooperation with German PSE AG. Taking place in the same week as the Intersolar North America, it will provide a platform to discuss the latest advancements in solar heating and cooling technologies. Intersolar visitors may use their conference ticket to attend the last SHC conference day. The final podium discussion will be a joint session of both events.
Solar thermal heating makes houses up to 67% more energy-efficient than a perfectly optimised building envelope. This is the result of a paper which compared the efficiency of solar thermal systems with building insulations. The study, which was commissioned by the German Federal Solar Industry Association (BSW Solar) and carried out by the German Sonnenhaus-Institut e.V. (Solar Houses Institute) and engineering firm Econsult, found that structures with a high solar thermal coverage are significantly more environmentally-friendly. Photo: Sonnenhaus-Institut e.V.
The symposium “Solar Thermal Energy” - the largest German-speaking conference dedicated to solar heating and cooling technology – has painted a mixed picture of the current development in Germany. The 3-day event, which was organised by German company Otti and took place at the beginning of May, gathered 430 researchers and industry representatives from Austria, Germany and Switzerland. The keynote speakers from the German Federal Environment Ministry, as well as from the national and international associations devoted most of their presentation time to analysing the German market. Their 2012 forecast: A 10 % plus, resulting in a newly installed solar thermal capacity of 980 MWth (1.4 million m²). The chart depicts the potential share of different heating systems combined with solar in 2012.