BONN/BERLIN (dpa-AFX) - More and more German balconies are being fitted with solar cells. In recent years, so-called balcony power plants have experienced a real boom, as they are a relatively simple and affordable way even for tenants to participate in the energy transition or simply save electricity costs. Politicians are also looking at plug-in solar systems, as the devices are correctly called. However, there are still some stumbling blocks. A look at the status, development and future

This is how many balcony power plants there are

There are now more than 400,000 plug-in solar power systems in operation, according to the Federal Network Agency's market master data register as of April 2. In the first quarter alone, more than 50,000 systems were added to the register. In fact, both figures are likely to be even higher, as there are unregistered installations on the one hand and installations that can be registered at a later date on the other. For comparison: nine months ago - in mid-2023 - the number of installations registered as being in operation was around 230,000.

North Rhine-Westphalia has the most installations with well over 80,000, followed by Bavaria with more than 60,000 and Lower Saxony with more than 50,000. Just under 50,000 installations were reported for Baden-Württemberg at the beginning of April, but the reality is likely to be higher here too. The distribution roughly follows the size of the federal states and populations, with the city states and Saarland bringing up the rear.

Will the growth continue?

The German Solar Industry Association (BSW) believes it is likely "that demand for solar technology will continue to increase overall in 2024," says Managing Director Carsten Kornig. However, market growth, which was still in the triple-digit percentage range in the past, will level off. It is in the nature of things that this cannot be repeated indefinitely. In addition, the energy crisis in connection with the war of aggression against Ukraine, among other things, has recently led to a special boom, which is now abating somewhat.

The change in the registration of new balcony power plants that came into force at the turn of the month could help a little. "Just as every disproportionate market barrier slows down demand. Conversely, almost every reduction in bureaucracy leads to an upturn in demand," says Kornig. "We very much welcome the simplified registration of plug-in solar devices from April 1 and further efforts by the federal governments to reduce bureaucracy." The Federal Network Agency has already simplified the registration of balcony power plants in the market master data register as of April 1 and refers to further planned measures in a planned solar package.

Solar package aims to reduce bureaucracy - and is stuck

The Federal Cabinet had already launched a solar package last August. Among other things, it includes the reduction of bureaucratic hurdles for the expansion of solar energy. However, the package has been stuck in parliamentary deliberations for months. The most controversial aspect is a targeted demand for taxpayers' money from the domestic solar industry - in view of Chinese dumping prices. The FDP does not want to go along with this. In addition to the solar package, the parliamentary groups in the traffic light coalition are also negotiating a reform of the Climate Protection Act, which is also controversial. An agreement on both projects could be reached soon.

"We hope that the solar package I will be passed by the Bundestag in April," says the BSW. The draft bill contains a whole series of measures to reduce bureaucracy, including the provision that balcony power plants no longer have to be registered with the grid operator. Registration in the Federal Network Agency's market master data register will then be sufficient.

Simplifications for apartment owners and tenants

The government also wants to make it easier for homeowners and tenants to install a balcony power plant. Specifically, this involves changes to tenancy law and condominium law. Power generation using plug-in solar devices is to be included in the catalog of so-called privileged measures. These are structural changes that cannot simply be blocked by landlords and condominium owners' associations (WEG) - for example, conversions for accessibility, e-mobility, burglary protection and telecommunications.

Landlords and homeowners' associations should still have a say when it comes to how a plug-in solar device is installed on the house. However, whether such a system may be installed at all would then no longer be fundamentally controversial - so there should be a right to it.

According to the Ministry of Justice, the installation of a plug-in solar device has so far generally constituted a structural change and requires a majority vote at the homeowners' meeting. "In practice, it can be difficult to obtain the required majority," the draft bill states.

The following is planned for tenants: Until now, the installation of a balcony power plant has required the landlord's permission - unless this is regulated in the rental agreement. In future, tenants will be able to demand that the landlord allows them to make any necessary structural changes to install the device. However, according to the Ministry of Justice, tenants will not be entitled to permission if the landlord or landlady cannot reasonably be expected to install the plug-in solar device. What exactly this means, however, is not clear, criticized the German Tenants' Association in a Bundestag statement./ruc/DP/mis