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Chancellor Angela Merkel’s new environment minister said he’ll seek a compromise with German states over plans to cut solar subsidies, as he takes control of the country’s 200-billion-euro ($250 billion) energy overhaul amid signs it is stalling.
Peter Altmaier, who assumed the post yesterday after Merkel sacked the previous holder, Norbert Roettgen, aims to break an impasse with the states over the level of subsidy cuts by the summer recess, he told Deutschlandfunk radio today.
Solar-industry jobs “can’t be saved by subsidies alone,” Altmaier said. While expanding solar energy is important, it can become problematic for energy security and power prices if it is “uncontrolled and advancing too quickly.” Getting a compromise “is a very big challenge, because there’s a lot at stake.”
One year after Merkel abandoned her support for nuclear energy, the chancellor is hosting talks with Altmaier and the 16 state leaders in Berlin today to discuss progress on the energy shift. The task is to phase out atomic power generation by 2022 and raise the share of renewables to at least 35 percent of the power mix in Europe’s biggest economy by the end of this decade. A press conference is planned for 1:30 p.m. Berlin time.
Projects to build new power lines and connect sea-based wind turbines to the electricity grid are delayed. Utilities including EON AG and RWE AG are refusing to build new gas-fired generators, deemed key by the government to back up the fluctuating renewables.
State leaders balked this month at federal government plans to cut solar subsidies by a record, saying the move threatened thousands of jobs in the world’s biggest solar market by installed capacity. They blocked the bill in the upper house on May 11 and have called on Altmaier to soften the planned cuts. The bill was sent to a parliamentary panel for arbitration.
The states are concerned that plans to cut solar incentives by as much as 29 percent from April 1 and introduce monthly cuts to subsidies thereafter will put additional pressure on domestic manufacturers such as Solarworld AG (SWV) as Chinese rivals led by Suntech Power Holdings Co. grab market share.
At least four German solar companies including Q-Cells SE (QCE), once the world’s biggest cell maker, have filed for creditor protection since December.
Altmaier, the former chief parliamentary whip of Merkel’s party, was appointed to manage the shuttering of Germany’s remaining nine nuclear reactors, building offshore wind farms that will cover an area six times the size of New York City and erecting power lines that could stretch from London to Baghdad.
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