Germany has made a serious effort to go Green. But even there, solar has taken a beating because the Chinese have ramped up their production. Considering what Germany would do to save its automobile industry, she seems to be caving pretty easily on PV cells.
ALEC Launches Assault on Renewable Energy IndustryBy: Steve Horn Tuesday April 24, 2012 4:43 pm
The American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC), as covered previously by DeSmogBlog, is the “Trojan Horse” behind mandating that climate change denial (“skepticism,” or “balance,” in its words) be taught in K-12 classrooms.
Well, ALEC is at it again, it appears. Facing an IRS complaint filed by Common Cause, one of the leading advocacy groups working to expose the corporate-funded bill mill, ALEC has also launched an assault on renewable energy legislation, according to a well-documented report written by Bloomberg News.
ALEC is also head-deep in promulgating fossil fuel industry-authored model legislation to dismantle, with one fell swoop, legislation promoting clean energy development.
“Nowhere else can you get a return that high,” ALEC has said on one occasion of the structure it has created to influence statehouses nationwide, referring to it as “a good investment.” A good investment indeed, particularly for fossil fuel corporations trying to take down a clean energy industry poised for rapid growth.
Bloomberg explains that dozens of states already have renewable energy mandate legislation: “Twenty-nine states and Washington, D.C., now have mandates, which, by requiring utilities to purchase energy derived from renewable sources, have helped provide a market for clean-energy technologies.”
Those programs, though, are now under severe attack by ALEC and the Grover Norquist-run Americans for Tax Reform.
“Opposition to the mandates coincides with the expiration of some federal incentives for renewables — many contained in the 2009 stimulus legislation. The repeal or weakening of state standards puts at risk an industry still dependent on government aid to compete with dirtier but cheaper fossil fuels…,” wrote Bloomberg.
Todd Wynn, meanwhile, head of ALEC’s Energy, Environment, and Agriculture Task Force said that the corporate patrons of the Task Force have “expressed concern on the cost of renewable energy,” a statement steeped in irony, given the amount of subsidies that flows to fossil fuel corporations on an annual basis, drastically trumping the amount of money renewable energy resources receive.
Corporate lobbyist members of the Task Force include the likes of representatives from Peabody Energy, American Coalition for Clean Coal Electricity (ACCCE) and BP America, according to SourceWatch. No surprises here, of course: King Coal and Big Oil would like to see nothing less than a vibrant renewable energy sector. more
Eastern Germany Hit Hard by Decline of SolarBy Charles Hawley 04/27/2012
The global solar industry has entered a brutal phase of consolidation and nowhere are the effects as dramatic as in eastern Germany. Several companies have already declared bankruptcy, leaving towns and cities in the region struggling with job losses and tax revenue shortfalls. The future bodes ill.
The sun, it was said, was going to save Frankfurt an der Oder, a city of 60,000 on the Polish border. After years of post-reunification economic doldrums, whose nadir came with the 2003 failure of a much-ballyhooed microchip factory project, the burgeoning German solar industry took an interest in the down-on-its-luck city.
In 2006, solar-panel manufacturer Conergy moved into the never-used computer chip factory, joining Odersun, already headquartered in the city. In 2007, the United States solar giant First Solar opened a factory as well, followed by a second one last year.
Now, though, the future suddenly looks decidedly dark. Odersun declared bankruptcy in March and Conergy, while pledging to return to profit this year, has seen its share price lose 99.6 percent of its value in the last five years. Many doubt the company will survive. Worst of all, however, was the announcement earlier this month that First Solar was closing both of its factories in Frankfurt an der Oder; 1,200 people will soon be jobless as a result.
"We saw the solar industry as a chance to reindustrialize the region and invested significantly in incentives," Frankfurt an der Oder Mayor Martin Wilke told SPIEGEL ONLINE. "This is a serious setback. It is a very difficult situation."
Frankfurt an der Oder's pain is far from an isolated case. The solar industry, once a beacon of hope for an eastern German economy that struggled for years to revive following reunification in 1990, is undergoing a brutal phase of consolidation. There is a massive surplus of global production capacity and the bad news for eastern Germany keeps getting worse. Last December, the Berlin company Solon, which employed hundreds in the Baltic Sea coast town of Greifswald, filed for bankruptcy. Aleo-Solar, based in Prenzlau north of Berlin, lost over €30 million (about $40 million) last year after turning a profit of €31.8 million in 2010, leading many to fear for their jobs there.
More significantly, Q-Cells, once the world's largest producer of solar cells, announced earlier this month that it was filing for bankruptcy, endangering 1,300 jobs in the eastern German town of Bitterfeld-Wolfen. While production is continuing at the site, the situation is extremely tenuous in an area where jobs are otherwise scarce.
The concern at the office of Bitterfeld-Wolfen Mayor Petra Wust is palpable. Wust ultimately declined an interview request from SPIEGEL ONLINE for fear of unsettling potential investors in the stricken solar company. A town spokesperson would only say: "It is clear that all this isn't nice for our town. We are trying to make the best of it, but it is a major blow."
The problems currently facing the solar industry are not isolated to Germany. According to a report issued last November by the Swiss bank Sarasin, overcapacity in solar module production has made a market shakeout inevitable. "The imbalances between production capacities and demand have become too great," the report stated. In 2011, the global production capacity for solar modules soared to 50 gigawatts, but the industry only managed to sell 21 gigawatts of that photovoltaic potential. Furthermore, the growth of solar companies in low-wage countries such as China has contributed to plummeting solar-panel prices.
"Primarily small, uncompetitive and poorly financed companies will not survive," the report warned. In its research, Sarasin specifically mentioned Conergy, Q-Cells and Sunways, which has a factory near the eastern German city of Erfurt, as being endangered. more