German Tripling of Solar Installs Below Expectations, Lobby Says

A tripling in German installations of solar panels in the first quarter is less than anticipated, given the rush to complete projects before subsidy cuts in the second-biggest market for the industry, a lobby group said.

“This is a clear warning signal,” BSW-Solar President Guenther Cramer said in a statement. “There’s no further room in the short term for strong cuts to solar subsidies.”

While installations rose to about 1,900 megawatts, from 513 megawatts a year earlier, they were less than estimates of as much as 4,100 megawatts, BSW-Solar said, citing “preliminary figures” for the first quarter. The government and regulator declined to comment on the numbers, reported today by the Financial Times Deutschland, which didn’t cite anyone.

Klaus Breil, a lawmaker with the Free Democratic Party junior coalition partner, said in January Germany might be heading toward 4 gigawatts of new projects through April. Some businesses speeded up developments before subsidy cuts as high as 29 percent, while others canceled projects, BSW-Solar said.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel’s government wants to lower by half the pace of annual solar installations after incentives for the industry pushed new projects to a record 7.5 gigawatts last year, more than double a target. Subsidy cuts, still going through parliament, would start April 1, about a year after Merkel decided to exit nuclear generation and replace reactors with a mix of renewable and more efficient fossil-fuel plants.

The 1.9 gigawatts is “slightly above expectations,” Katharina Cholewa, an analyst with WestLB AG, said by phone. Cholewa had initially forecast 1.6 gigawatts for the quarter.

Juergen Maass, a spokesman for the Environment Ministry, and Renate Hichert, at the Bundesnetzagentur grid regulator, declined to comment. Hichert said the regulator plans to release an official figure by the end of this month or in early May.

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