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German report German report
by Euro Reporter
2011-12-30 10:25:53
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Solar power production surges 60 of total electricity supply

Germany’s solar energy output surged 60% to 18 billion kilowatt-hours (kWh) in 2011, accounting for more than 3% of national electricity generation, national industry association Bundesverband Solarwirtschaft (BSW) announced yesterday. Solar energy is producing enough electricity to power some 5.1 million households, about 1/8 the number in the entire state of Thuringia, according to a Reuters News report. The heady performance was achieved even as German solar photovoltaic (PV) manufacturers have experienced increasing pressures from a glut of low-priced solar panels coming out of China, and reductions in Germany’s solar feed-in tariff (FiT) rates, which will fall 15% on January 1 and another 9% in mid-2012. That’s led to some industry turmoil. A second German solar PV manufacturer, Solar Millennium, recently followed Solon into insolvency proceedings.

Nonetheless, Germany’s solar power industry looks to be in fundamentally sound shape going forward, as the European Union’s largest economy is in the early stages of shutting down its nuclear power plants. Scheduled to be completed in 2022, this should underpin investments in solar and other forms of renewable energy, raising renewable energy’s share of national electricity output as high as 40%. Though not known for its sunny climate, solar PV and thermal energy have proved themselves in Germany. Proactive government support has been leveraged by the private sector in forging Germany into a world-leading solar power market and industry. That’s led the sector to become an anchor of employment and economic growth as the country continues to lead the world in transitioning to a clean energy economy.

“Solar energy has become an indispensable ingredient of a successful energy strategy shift,” Managing Director Carsten Koernig said in a statement.


Speed payments to bailout fund

Germany’s plan to speed up payments into Europe’s future permanent bailout fund with cash is aimed at securing the highest ratings for its bonds, said a senior lawmaker from Chancellor Angela Merkel’s party. Germany may pay 8.6 billion Euros ($11.1 billion) into the European Stability Mechanism in 2012, twice the amount slated in the budget, providing it can persuade other euro-region states to double their payments, Norbert Barthle, the Christian Democratic Union’s budget spokesman, said yesterday in an interview.

German coalition lawmakers see no scope to increase the 500 billion euro ESM, while its lending power may be maximized by reducing costs influenced by ratings, said Barthle, speaking by phone. Germany in July agreed to pay a quarter or about 20 billion Euros of the fund’s so-called paid-in cash stock over five years. Speeding up the payments is “definitely conceivable while a German go-it-alone will definitely not work,” said Barthle. “The aim is to secure good ratings for the fund and win a little independence from the rating agencies.”

Euro-region leaders are holding parallel talks on shaping the euro’s temporary and permanent rescue funds after the costs borne by Spain and Italy to sell debt soared this year and prompted calls to bring forward creation of the ESM.


Poverty in Germany persists despite economic growth

Some twelve million Germans, or 14.5 percent of the population, are poor, the charity organisation Welfare Association reports. The situation is especially bad in Germany’s former industrial heartland, the Ruhr region. Here the head of the Paritätischen Wohlfarhrtsverband, Ulrich Schneider, warns of the threat of social unrest. In a new report, the Welfare Association found that poverty has remained at “a record level of over 14 percent for the past six years”. Despite severe economic fluctuations, including periods of significant economic growth, poverty rates during this period have not shifted by even a single percentage point.

The report uses the concept of the “danger of poverty”. This applies when someone has less than 60 percent of average monthly income at their disposal. In 2010, the poverty threshold for a single household was €826, for a family of four €1735. The report points out that this 60 percent limit for the single household is significantly over the average monthly welfare payment (Hartz-IV) threshold of €701. For families dependent on welfare assistance, the report notes, there is “no longer a danger of poverty, but real poverty.” The report detects a significant negative trend in particular in two German states—Berlin and North Rhine-Westphalia. Both states have been long governed by social democratic-led coalitions. In Berlin, the poverty rate rose from 17 percent in 2006 to 19.2 percent last year; in North Rhine-Westphalia poverty rose from 13.9 to 15.4 percent.

While the proportion of poor people in Berlin and North Rhine-Westphalia has increased, the proportion of welfare recipients across the country has declined slightly. In Berlin, the number of those on Hartz-IV payments in 2011 topped 21.1 percent, or slightly lower than in 2010. The report concludes that the fact that relative poverty in these two states has increased demonstrates the trend towards a growing percentage of so-called “working poor”, i.e., those with jobs at minimal wages which condemn them to poverty. According to Ulrich Schneider, who officially presented the report, responsibility for this tendency lies with the growth of the low-wage sector in Germany. The Welfare Association expresses its concern at the fact that poverty did not decline, even during periods of the rapid growth of the German economy, such as in 2006, 2007 and 2010. A boost to the general economy had no positive impact on the income of the poorest layers of the population.

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