With more than 200,000 visitors from 61 countries and 2,482 exhibitors, this year´s ISH trade fair in Frankfurt, Germany, set a new record. The biannual exhibition showed the latest trends in building and heating technologies, including renewable energy applications. During the one-hour press conference of the German heating industry association BDH, the world “solar” was not even mentioned once. Faced with decreasing interest in solar thermal across central Europe, the portfolio of the few exhibitors specialising in the technology included electric heating in one way or another. The photo shows a collector to regenerate boreholes which are connected to heat pump.
Three weeks before the ISH 2017 opens its doors again between 14 and 18 March 2017, the German renewable heating associations published their annual market statistics for 2016. The trend is clear: Low oil and gas prices have reduced demand for solar water heating systems (-8 %) and biomass boilers (-3 %), whereas the German heat pump industry can be more than satisfied with 17 % growth. The ISH is Europe’s largest trade fair for bathroom design, energy-efficient heating, air conditioning and renewable energies and takes place every two years in Frankfurt, Germany.
The German solar thermal market is still stuck in recession. Although incentives are higher than they have ever been, demand has not really picked up over the first five months of this year, according to the market statistics by the two associations BSW Solar and BDH. The total collector area sold until the end of May was again down by 5.3 % compared to the previous year, although vacuum tubes have been more strongly affected by the slump (-18 %) than flat plate collectors (-4 %). Installers are viewed as the bottleneck in the supply chain and an increasing number of solar thermal suppliers have run advert campaigns to try and reach end customers on their own. Solarthermalworld.org has already reported on the new end-customer sales strategies employed by Thermondo. This article describes how the campaigns of another German system supplier, Sonnenkraft, have changed over the years. The image depicts an advertisement for the campaign from 2005 (left) and one from 2015 (right).
During the first quarter of 2016, solar thermal suppliers in Germany sold around 3 % more systems than they did over the same period last year. This is indeed good news after 2015 turned out to be another disappointing year with a 10 % drop in sales, adding only 805,000 m² (563 MWth) of newly installed collector area. The other good news is that subsidies in Germany have never been as attractive as they are now. It is the reason why the two German solar and heating associations, BSW Solar and BDH, launched the Solar Heating – it always pays off (Sonnige Heizung - immer im Plus) campaign, as announced in a press release in the middle of April – at the same time that the Solar Thermal Energy Symposium took place in Bad Staffelstein. The symposium is Germany’s major annual industry conference on the topic and is organised by the East-Bavarian Institute for Technology Transfer, OTTI. This year, the three-day conference was attended by around 250 solar thermal experts from research and industry.
Finally some good news from Germany, the largest market in Europe, which declined for four years in a row between 2011 and 2014. After a very sluggish first quarter in 2015, demand for solar thermal systems was increasing over the summer months because of the increased subsidy levels of the German Market Rebate Programme for Renewable Energies since April 2015. The number of applications for solar thermal systems in June and July was 31 % higher than in the previous year. The chart shows the applications submitted per month, with the green columns depicting 2014 and the orange columns representing 2015. And there is more good news for the sector: the announced energy label for existing heating boilers.
Source: Federal Office for Economic Affairs and Export Control, BAFA
According to the German solar industry association, BSW Solar, and the German heating industry association, BDH, the country saw an 11 % decrease in newly installed solar collector area in 2013, bringing market volume down to 735 MWth (1.05 million m²). The analysis presented by BSW Solar Managing Director, Jörg Mayer, at the Solar Thermal Energy Symposium in Bad Staffelstein pointed most of all to a slump in the German market segment of solar combi systems for domestic hot water and space heating in existing buildings. The symposium, which took place at the end of May, is now in its 24th year and gathered 333 scientists and solar thermal industry representatives from the German-speaking region.
Photo: East-Bavarian Institute for Technology Transfer, OTTI
In May 2014, Germany will have a new Energy Savings Ordinance, the EnEV 2014. From 2015 on, the regulation will require the replacement of oil and gas boilers that are older than 30 years if they are not subject to one of the many exemptions. It might bring solar thermal an increased market volume, as new fossil boilers are often supplemented by solar collector systems. But in case of new buildings, the regulation favours heat pumps, making it likely for solar thermal to lose market shares.
Four major solar and heating associations in Europe jointly kicked off the ESTESC working group in Berlin at the end of November. ESTESC stands for European Solar Thermal Energy Standardisation & Certification. The four associations are the two Brussels-based associations European Solar Thermal Industry Federation (ESTIF) and the Association of the European Heating Industry (EHI), as well as German associations BSW Solar and the Federal Industrial Association of Germany - House, Energy and Environmental Technology, BDH. All members of the four organisations have been invited to become active participants of a number of subgroups within the ESTECS working group. Christian Stadler, Technical Head at Austrian company General Solar Systems, was elected Chair of the ESTESC for the next three years. He started his career in the solar thermal industry in 1991 and worked in leading positions at 4 different collector manufacturers. Since 2008, he has been responsible for product management, development and strategic sourcing at General Solar Systems with its major brand Sonnenkraft.
Photo: General Solar Systems
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.
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.