Companies like ours are very much in favor of government subsidies to help solar thermal energy take its rightful place in the renewable energy space. It’s not that we believe subsidies ought to be permanent, but that they should be continued until solar thermal can stand on its own. There is ample evidence that proves government subsidies work when applied in the right way.
To illustrate this point, let’s look at two countries and their subsidy programs. Both countries achieved different results based on what they did with their subsidy programs. After reading the information, it should be clear that subsidies have a rightful place in the renewable energy space – at least for the time being.
Solar Thermal in Germany
Attendees of a recent energy symposium in Germany were treated to the good news that the solar thermal industry in that country experienced a 3% growth in sales for the first quarter of the year, following a disappointing 2015 in which sales dropped by approximately 10%. Attendees also heard about how government subsidies have served to boost sales this year.
A report from Solar Thermal World says solar thermal subsidies in Germany have never been stronger. What is known as the German Market Rebate program offers subsidies for numerous renewable heat energy sources, including solar thermal, biomass boilers, and heat pumps. The heat pump category has benefited the most from the program, but solar thermal comes in second place. Biomass boilers have lost about 9%, likely as a result of a drop in fossil fuel prices.
Germany tends to see solar thermal growth whenever subsidies are made available. We hope to see local and national leaders keep things going for a stronger solar thermal market here in the US.
Solar Thermal in Portugal
Government officials in Portugal introduced an incentive scheme known as the Energy Efficiency Fund in May 2015. Their strategy was twofold: to encourage more solar thermal installations for new builds and to help restore existing solar thermal applications installed before 2005. The latter was the more important priority. Unfortunately, the program fell flat and, as a result, solar thermal sales in that country plummeted in 2015.
Experts say that the qualifications were too restrictive for organizations looking for the subsidies. The restrictions were so tight, in fact, that the program received only four applications in the whole of 2015. The money still sits there, but very few organizations qualify to receive it. In effect, the restrictions make the program virtually nonexistent. Without changes, there is little hope for subsidized solar thermal in Portugal.
Solar Thermal Will Stand on Its Own
Solar thermal technology is by no means a flash in the pan with no staying power. We have proven as much with our patented SunQuest 250® solar thermal collector. This collector delivers incredible performance at a very affordable price and with the need for a very small installation footprint. Since the inception of Solar America Solutions, the collector has helped thousands of customers save on their utility bills without sacrificing the availability of space heat and hot water.
Solar thermal technology will stand on its own if we can encourage enough businesses and property owners to adopt it. That is why subsidies are needed for the time being. We need to be able to bring prices down to a point where the industry is self-sufficient, but that’s not possible as long as adoption remains limited.
The proof is in the pudding, so to speak. Where subsidies remain strong, the solar thermal market continues to grow. Where subsidies are weak or entirely nonexistent, solar thermal barely registers.
1.Solar Thermal World – http://www.solarthermalworld.org/content/germany-symposium-debates-renewable-heating-market-ups-and-downs
2. Solar Thermal World – http://www.solarthermalworld.org/content/portugal-incentive-scheme-fails-while-sales-take-another-dive