In the wake of the Paris climate agreement, the German debate currently revolves around the political goal that the global energy supply must make do without coal, oil and natural gas, and that these resources must remain in the ground.
That is too defensive and backward looking.
The more future-oriented message is: We can make do without fossil fuel and nuclear energy! That’s because the cost of renewable energy, especially solar, continues to fall. Like the Stone Age, the fossil-nuclear age will come to an end because there are better and cheaper alternatives.
We will then be able to turn our backs on two key technologies that date back to the last century: steam engines in power plants and internal combustion engines in automobiles. Electrification and digitization will modernize economies. Electric cars and electric sources of heat will become unstoppable, because these technologies are better and more convincing.
These opportunities cannot be obstructed by regulations, duties and tariffs.
However, we will be unable to supply this push for modernization without a massive increase in the numbers of solar panels on roofs and walls, which will require a total investment of several hundred billion euros. This would be enough to install 300 to 450 gigawatts of photovoltaics on building walls and rooftops in Germany.
To increase this potential in the medium term, however, Germany needs a comprehensive reduction in regulation of the energy economy, because solar panels and battery storage devices will become an integral component of increasingly self-sufficient buildings.
In places where hardly any electricity is fed into the grid anymore, no compensation is needed, but neither is a solar tax in the form of the EEG reallocation charge.
World market prices for solar modules would benefit Germany in the short term. Without European Union trade restrictions, they could be 20 percent cheaper today and 40 percent cheaper by 2020. Even if these modules are imported from China, Germany retains more than three-quarters of added value.
Only if the solar market is expanded again in Germany and Europe do we stand a competitive chance of developing competitive production, in the form of gigawatt factories and standardized products, not to mention special products for solar panels integrated into building walls.
But the current trade restrictions for solar modules stand in the way of this expansion.
In light of these prospects, the European Union’s trade dispute with China seems grotesque and petty. Some of the environmental limits to growth can be overcome with the technological development of photovoltaic systems and batteries. This will gradually bring a period of uncertainty resulting from limited and harmful fossil energy resources to an end.
These opportunities cannot be obstructed by regulations, duties and tariffs. More than ever, we can now bank on technological development, the market and customers.
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