German Solar Industry Facing Challenging Times

Solarwatt & Energieversum Reportedly Laying Off Staff, While Meyer Burger Contemplates Relocating To US

German Solar Industry Facing Challenging Times

Facing intensive competition from cheaper Chinese modules along with government funding for PV manufacturing in the US and China, the German solar industry impatiently awaits government support. (Illustrative Photo; Photo Credit: tilialucida/Shutterstock.com)

  • German solar industry is bearing the brunt of the federal government’s €60 billion funding plans having gone awry 
  • Both upstream and downstream players are reportedly laying off staff with demand dwindling and competition intensifying 
  • BSW Solar demands the government to grant bonuses and also include a resilience component in Solar Package I 

Even as Germany is set to exit 2023 with record solar PV capacity installations after several years having already exceeded 10 GW within 9M/2023, the market is witnessing a growing number of challenges, from funding challenges for the government, increasing competition, to high interest rates. These factors are impacting both upstream and downstream players, some of whom are taking and contemplating drastic measures. 

According to a news report by MDR SACHSEN, Dresden-headquartered solar module supplier Solarwatt is reducing its employee count by 85 by the end of this year. The company blames the decision on increasing competition and ‘no quick and unbureaucratic responses from European and German politicians’ to the unequal competitive conditions vis-à-vis Chinese and US manufacturers. 

While China’s hugely subsidized solar PV manufacturing industry continues to dominate global PV markets, the US with its Inflation Reduction Act (IRA) is attracting private investment in building a domestic PV industrial chain. The IRA is inspiring even European manufacturers to set up shop in the US including Enel Green Power (EGP) and Meyer Burger. The latter is also diverting its solar cell production equipment meant for Germany’s Thalheim expansion, to the US (see Further Capacity Expansion For Meyer Burger).  

Europe’s sole solar glass manufacturer GMB Glasmanufaktur Brandenburg GmbH told Süddeutsche Zeitung that several of its customers cancelled their orders for the last quarter ‘en masse’ and that it can’t plan for 2024 at all. The same publication reports Meyer Burger’s Gunter Erfurt’s statement that with no financial support from the government, one way to deal with the situation will be to relocate its production lines to the US. 

Erfurt’s comments come in the wake of reports of cheaper Chinese solar modules piling up high in European warehouses, thus spoiling the business case for local manufacturing (see EUPD Pegs 2023 EU Solar PV Installations At 60 GW). 

Going through a tough economic environment currently, Germany needs to arrange €60 billion to fund its climate plans after the country’s top court stopped the government in its tracks from repurposing this amount left over from a COVID-19 fund to fund its green agenda. The court called it unconstitutional. 

With this, the fate of the government’s 10 GW solar PV manufacturing tender, which attracted interest from several leading players including Meyer Burger, seems to be in a limbo (see Solar Manufacturing Consortium In Germany). 

Downstream PV market fares no better as high interest rates negatively impact demand in the construction segment. Additionally for installers, such as the subsidiary of storage manufacturer SENEC, Energieversum that’s reducing its headcount, the competition is fierce as more roofing companies venture into solar. 

According to energie-Experten.org, Energieversum has laid off ‘almost one in 5 employees’ of its team of 450, across Germany. It cites operational reasons for the move due to intensified competition as roofing companies enter the solar space.  

Energieversum denies there is any link between the layoffs and its parent SENEC recalling several thousands of storage products due to the risk of fire in its lithium-ion batteries. 

Industry demand 

Meanwhile, the German solar industry association BSW Solar has appealed to the federal government to take quick and effective measures to secure and resettle the European solar industry by anchoring a resilience component in Solar Package I. The country targets 215 GW cumulative installed solar capacity by 2030, supported by this package (see German Federal Government Approves Solar Package). 

The resilience component should be awarded to bidders who use a large number of Europe-made components in their solar systems.  

BSW demands that the government should grant bonuses, increasing ceiling tariffs under tenders for solar system operators for a limited period of time, and creating a separate funding segment for PV manufacturing to make it work for the industry. The association believes this would make it possible to compensate for higher production costs during the ramp-up phase of European solar factories and competitive disadvantages compared to solar factories in Asia and the USA. 

About The Author

Anu Bhambhani

Anu Bhambhani is the Senior News Editor of TaiyangNews. Anu is our solar news whirlwind. At TaiyangNews she covers everything that is of importance in the world of solar power. --Email: [email protected]

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