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Solar thermal energy in Germany

For renewable electricity, the Renewable Energy Sources Act (Erneuerbare Energien Gesetz, EEG) came into operation on April 1st, 2000. It ensured independent power producers, either individuals or companies, to be able to deliver power to the electricity grid: grid operators were obliged to accept this power and to pay fixed tariffs to the producers: feed-in tariffs. The Act was revised in the year 2004 (August 1st, adopted on July 21st, 2004). For the year 2009 new amendments were made to the Act (adopted on June 6th, 2008). A feed-in tariff is guaranteed for 20 years for most technologies (only hydropower has a different period). In order to compensate for technology learning effects (through economies of scale and efficient production and conversion) the tariff is each year decreased with a certain percentage. The objective of the Renewable Energy Sources Act (EEG) has been to increase the share of total power supply that is derived from renewables to at least 12.5 per cent by 2010 and at least 20 per cent by 2020. As of 2007 the long-term targets have been made more ambitious: the 2020 share of renewable energies in electricity generation aimed for has been increased to 25-30%, and a continued steady expansion after 2020 is also aimed for.

Regarding renewable heating and cooling, the Bundestag adopted on 6 June 2008 a law on the promotion of renewable energies in the heat sector (Erneuerbare Energien Wärmegesetz, known as EEWärmeG). This law entered into force January 1st 2009 and obliges the owners of new buildings to cover a part of their heating needs from renewable energy. The EEWärmeG aims at doubling the share of renewable heat from 7 to 14% by 2020. The law uses of renewables obligations for heating in new built (or renovation) projects, but leaves investors free to choose their own energy source.

The law recognises solar energy, biomass, geothermal energy and ambient air heat. The obligatory part depends on the type of renewable energies used in the building. It is 15% for solar energy, 30% for biogas and 50% for all the others. Among these other renewables, biomass fuels (firewood, pellets, chips, etc.) can only be used in high-yield boilers that comply with air quality legislation. The owners can, if they so desire, combine several different sources of energy. A solar collector can in this way be completed by a wood pellet burning boiler. The EEGWärmeG law does not only consist of obligations. It also reinforces the program of development of the renewable energies market in allotting it €500 million per year up to 2012. 

On November 7th 2007, the renewable energy law was evaluated and judged pertinent by the German Parliament. This evaluation is based on indicators of installed capacity, on the number of tons of CO2 prevented and on the creation of jobs. The Parliament’s report also recommended increasing the share of renewable electricity to 27% in 2010. The report also called on the adjustment of the feed-in tariff of certain technologies including onshore and offshore wind power.

According to the draft Directive of the European Parliament and of the Council on the promotion of the use of energy from renewable sources the target for the share of energy from renewable sources in gross final consumption of energy in the year 2020 for Germany is 18% (in the year 2005 the share was 5.8%) (European Parliament legislative resolution of 17 December 2008).

Renewable energy projections according to the National Renewable Energy Action Plan for Germany
The National Renewable Energy Action Plan (NREAP) for Germany was submitted in August 2010. The target according to Annex I of Directive 2009/28/EC is 18% for the year 2020 and the projected NREAP share in that year is 19.6%.  According to the projection, the most important contribution in the year 2020 is expected from biomass (renewable heating and cooling) (11355 ktoe, 29% of all renewable energy). Second important contribution is expected from wind power (104.4 TWh or 8980 ktoe, 23% of all renewable energy). The third largest contribution is from biodiesel (renewable transport) (4443 ktoe, 12% of all renewable energy). Wind power contributes with 45.8 GW (104.4 TWh) in the year 2020 (onshore wind 35.8 GW and 72.7 TWh, offshore wind 10.0 GW and 31.8 TWh). For solar photovoltaic the 2020 contribution is projected to be 51.8 GW (41.4 TWh). For solar thermal the 2020 contribution is projected to be 1245 ktoe. The two most important biofuels are projected to contribute 4443 ktoe (biodiesel) and 857 ktoe (bioethanol / bio-ETBE) by 2020. The renewable electricity production from solid biomass amounts to 24.6 TWh (2113 ktoe) and for biogas it is expected to be 23.4 TWh (2015 ktoe). The consumption of renewable heat is expected to amount to 8952 ktoe for solid biomass and 1692 ktoe for biogas.

Renewable Heating and Cooling: solar thermal
There are different subsidy schemes, both on national level and on the level of the different federal states.

On the Federal level, the new Renewable Energies Heat Act entered into force on 1 January 2009. It stipulates that owners of future buildings must cover part of their heat supply with renewable energies. This applies to residential and non-residential buildings for which a building application or construction notification was submitted after 1 January 2009. The owner is free to choose which source of renewable energies is used. The important aspect is that a certain percentage of heat is generated this way. The percentage depends on the type of energy employed. If solar power is used, it must cover at least 15 per cent of the heat demand. At least half of the heat must be generated by renewable energies if solid or liquid biomass, geothermal energy or ambient heat is used. For support schemes on state level see

The most attractive subsidy scheme is called “Marktanreizprogramm” and is administrated by BAFA, the
Bundesamt für Wirtschaft und Ausfuhrkontrolle. The amount that is paid per m2 collector area depends on the application and requires certain collector efficiency. In March 2011 the Ministry of Environment published its new conditions for the MAP subsidy programme, which covers solar thermal installations, biomass boilers and heat pumps. The new regulations came into force on 15 March 2011. The directive includes three major improvements referring to the July 2010 version, when the programme was restarted after a three-month break with reduced levels of incentives. The subsidy rate for solar collectors of combined hot water and space heating installations will temporarily increase from 90 to 120 EUR/m2, until 30 December 2011. From 1 January 2012 the funding level will be back to 90 EUR/m2. The bonus that is paid when replacing the old boiler with a condensing boiler will be temporarily increased from EUR 400 to EUR 600 until the end 2011. From 2012, a boiler replacement bonus of EUR 500 will be paid. The “combi bonus” that is paid when a heat pump or a biomass boiler is combined with a solar thermal system increased from EUR 500 to EUR 600, until 30 December 2011 and will be reduced to EUR 500 from beginning of 2012. The Extension of already operating solar thermal systems subsidised with 40 EUR/per additional m². An innovation bonus of 180 EUR/m2 for special solar heating systems like solar cooling (20 to 40 m2 of collector area) in new buildings is also in effect.

Two major certification schemes in Germany are Solar Keymark and Blauer Engel (RAL-UZ 73). The requirement for the payment by BAFA (see above) is an annual solar energy yield of at least 525 kWh / m2. Furthermore the requirements according to the “Blauer Engel” (RAL-UZ 73) have to be fulfilled. For collectors tested after 01.01.2007 Solar Keymark certification is required. From 2009 onwards Solar Keymark certification will be required for all collectors in order to benefit from the BAFA subsidies.

Large (solar) heating plants have the possibility to sell CO2 emission allowances. The energy labelling of buildings required by the European directive on energy performance of buildings is implemented by means of the new version of the Energieeinsparverordnung (EnEV) (Energy Saving Directive) that came into force on October 1st, 2007. Subsidies are still predominantly based on squaremeter collector area and not on the overall energy savings of the system. The so-called innovation bonus which allows for up to the threefold of the standard subsidy rates is a nice instrument to promote innovative systems such as large-scale solar thermal systems or solar cooling systems.

Future programme changes expected
Political debates are ongoing on an accelerated switch to renewable energies. By June the Federal Governement announced to present an energy strategy that will also contain details on solar thermal support schemes. The outcome will possibly also have effects on the budget of the market incentive programme (MAP).


BMU 2009: Act on the Promotion of Renewable Energies in the Heat Sector (Erneuerbare-Energien-Wärmegesetz – EEWärmeG) of 2008, (English but legally non binding version), , (sourced April 2011)

BMU 2009: The Renewable Energies Heat Act (EEWärmeG) in brief, Federal Ministry for the Environment, Nature Conservation and Nuclear Safety (BMU), (sourced April 2011)

BAFA 2011, Bundesamt für Wirtschaft und Ausfuhrkontrolle (BAFA), Eckdaten zum Marktanreizprogramm 2011, Status 15 March 2011,, (sourced April 2011)

BAFA 2011, Basis-, Bonus- und Innovationsförderung Solar, BAsic, Bonus and Innovation support/ Overview of rates as of  15 March 2011,, (sourced April 2011)

Solarthermal world 2011: Germany increased funding levels of national subsidy programme, ,  (sourced April 2011).

EurObserv'ER Solar Thermal barometer, June 2009,

EurObserv'ER Solar Thermal barometer, May 2010,

ESTIF 2010: Solar Thermal Markets in Europe, Trends and Market Statistics 2009, June 2010,, (sourced December 2010)

The National Renewable Energy Action Plans (NREAPs) are all published on the Transparency Platform on Renewable Energy: (sourced July - December 2010)

Renewable Energy Projections as Published in the National Renewable Energy Action Plans of the European Member States, (sourced December 2010)

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Last update: April 2010

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