Missing the solar show?

June 5, 2009

By now, the message that solar power will become a major source of electricity should have reached most parts of the world.

Huge proposed spending packages by the Obama administration as well as the Chinese government also highlight the political and economic relevance of the sector as a job creator.

When I visited Intersolar in Munich last week — the world’s biggest trade fair in the solar industry — it surprised me, however, that Germany — expected to become the world’s biggest solar market in 2009 in new installation — seemed to have missed that fact as no government politican turned up to the event. Not even the mayor of Munich stopped by.

Instead, German Economy Minister Karl-Theodor zu Guttenberg (who admittedly was busy with Opel at the time), sent his greetings in written form — a move that was met with irritation by some industry players.

“I find it incredible that no politician even bothered to come here, it’s a big industry and deserves attention,” said an executive of one of Germany’s biggest solar companies, who asked not to be named.

    Justified criticism?

    The industry has grown massively over the last years, with Germany becoming the world’s second-biggest market per installation in 2008, second only to Spain.

    The solar industry employs about 75,000 people in Germany, generating about 8.5 billion euros ($12.08 billion) of sales last year, and is home to bellwethers such as Q-Cells, the world’s largest maker of solar cells.

    Given the political and economic importance of the event, can the German government afford not to be there?

    What do you think?

(Photo: The sky is reflected in solar panels in the southern German town of Buerstadt May 24, 2005. The 40,000 square meter installation produces 4,500,000 kilowatts per year.)


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The grey elite believes that only old school industries can make money. For many politicians its hard to adjust to a new way of thinking, maybe too hard.

Whatever reasons the economy minister might have had for not showing up, fact remains that it doesn’t demonstrate a lot of trust in this new industry which needs all the support it can get.

Posted by Nikkei 225 | Report as abusive

Yes! Representatives of the German government should have attended the event. There wasn’t one brave realist to speak for their constituents’ interests or their future? PLEASE. I live in California, where so many solar-powered inventions’ patents have been purchased, then back-shelved. Very sad.

Posted by April Lorier | Report as abusive

It looks as if politicians nowadays only go where they see the biggest lime light effect for themselves: e.g. Trouble shooting issues with eg. Opel. This could deliver results. Participating in an event that’s about a healthy sector doesn’t produce credits for them.

On a different note: Production capacity looks awkward, should it not be 4,500,000 kilowatt HOURs per year?

Posted by Ben Hermann | Report as abusive

This is insulting to an industry that brings billions in revenue AND helps save the environment. All someone had to do was show up in support and earn some credibility with greenies like us. These solar panels help reduce the effects of global warming and flooding!

Posted by Marcus | Report as abusive

the same people who own all of the petroleum wealth in the world are probably controlling the advancement,(or lack thereof) of solar energy. solar energy and other forms of energy will suddenly take hold when these people have bled every last dime out of petroleum for their pocketbooks. then these same vultures will also control the pricepoint of the new energy wealth. that is just the way the world works according to them.

Posted by garyb | Report as abusive