Green Energy

Germany’s Solar Valley could shine again as Europe strives to close energy gap

Germany has enlisted help from Brussels to revive its solar panel industry and improve the bloc’s energy security as Berlin, reeling from the consequences of over-reliance on Russian fuel, strives to cut its dependency on Chinese technology.

It is also reacting to a new U.S. law that has raised concern the remains of Germany’s formerly-dominant solar industry could relocate to the United States.

Once the world’s leader in installed solar power capacity, Germany’s solar manufacturing collapsed after a government decision a decade ago to cut subsidies to the industry faster than expected drove many solar firms to leave Germany or into insolvency.

Near the eastern city of Chemnitz in what is known as Saxony’s Solar Valley, Heckert Solar is one of half a dozen survivors surrounded by abandoned factories that the company’s regional sales manager Andreas Rauner described as “investment ruins”.

He said the company, now Germany’s largest solar module, or panel-maker, managed to weather the impact of state-subsidised Chinese competition and the loss of German government backing through private investment and a diversified customer base.

In 2012, Germany’s then-conservative government cut solar subsidies in response to demands from traditional industry whose preference for fossil fuel, especially cheap imports of Russian gas, has been exposed by supply disruption following the Ukraine war.

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