Germans encouraged to use solar panels as 'balcony power plants'

Ministers relax rules as Berlin aims to speed up transition to renewable energy

German households will be able to install solar panels without registering with power grid operators first. Getty Images
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Germans will be encouraged to set up solar panels on their balconies under a clean energy drive unveiled on Wednesday.

Rules on "balcony power plants" will be relaxed as part of a push to treble solar panel installation by 2026.

Ministers also want more solar panels on farmland as they look to exploit all available space.

It comes as Germany tries to speed up its transition from the carbon-intensive and largely Russian-supplied fossil fuels on which it once relied.

Efforts to meet green targets by expanding wind power and promoting heat pumps have been hampered by high costs and political resistance.

Chancellor Olaf Scholz's cabinet agreed the "solar package" on Wednesday, in its first meeting after the summer break.

Officials hailed it as a "positive example of cutting bureaucracy", for which Germany is sometimes renowned.

"We want to quickly overcome the crippling slowness of the bureaucratic republic of Germany," said Michael Kruse, an energy policy spokesman for the liberal party in Mr Scholz's coalition.

He called on Economy Minister Robert Habeck to set out how Germany would store its increased wind and solar power capacity.

Mr Habeck said "more speed and less bureaucracy" was "exactly what we are implementing".

The balcony rules are part of a drive for "citizens' participation" in generating clean power.

Households will no longer need to register with power grid operators or install a two-way meter before using solar panels, Mr Habeck's ministry said.

People could also connect their solar panels with simple two-pin European plugs rather than a specialist type.

Barbara Metz, a director of pressure group Environmental Action Germany, said the balcony shake-up was an "important step".

However, she said many similar schemes had "failed in practice" because of vetoes by landlords or residents' associations.

Such groups "repeatedly make absurd demands that make installation unnecessarily laborious and sometimes economically unviable", she added.

An industry group welcomed proposals it said would "equally benefit private and commercial investors" and contribute to climate action.

"This is a pleasingly big step into the solar age, which we have been anxiously awaiting for years," said Carsten Koernig, the head of the German Solar Industry Association.

Updated: August 16, 2023, 3:31 PM