Expansion of Photovoltaics in German Cities

An analysis of the tenant electricity model with the multi-level perspective

  • News 10.03.2021

When taking a look at German cities from above, one will notice that solar systems can only be seen on few roofs. The expansion of photovoltaics in urban areas has so far fallen short of expectations. The tenant electricity model offers great potential here. This model supplies tenants with solar power directly from the roof of their apartment building and lets them benefit from the lower generation costs. A study on behalf of the German Federal Ministry for Economic Affairs and Energy estimated the number of tenant households with good conditions for solar tenant electricity at 3.8 million. At the same time, the federal tenant electricity promotion scheme has been in place since 2017, but only about one per cent of the annual budget has been claimed.

In the article "Solar Prosumers in the German Energy Transition: A Multi-Level Perspective Analysis of the German 'Mieterstrom' Model," Raphael David Moser, Chun Xia-Bauer, Johannes Thema and Florin Vondung from the Wuppertal Institute's Division of Energy, Transport and Climate Policy examine the barriers regarding the tenant electricity model and the factors contributing to its diffusion. The results of their qualitative document analysis and the interviews with experts from science and practice as well as associations show that the legal framework in particular makes the implementation of the model complex and expensive. "In the interviews, the Federal Network Agency was mentioned several times, which could make a big contribution to the dissemination of the model with a more open-minded attitude towards tenant electricity," explains Raphael David Moser, co-author of the article and graduate Research Assistant in the Urban Transition Research Unit at the Wuppertal Institute. The lack of interest of some tenants in changing their electricity supply also is an obstacle, but at the same time there are some long-term trends that are conducive to the diffusion. Advancing digitalisation can simplify administration and billing and thus make the model more competitive. This article is the first to offer a comprehensive analysis of the tenant electricity model based on the multi-level perspective, with a special focus on barriers at the regime level.

Because electricity demand in cities will increase in the future due to sector coupling, this will necessarily be accompanied by the development of new decentralised generation potential. In addition, Germany has committed itself through the EU Renewable Energy Directive to improving the framework conditions for community self-supply with renewable energy. Specifically, the directive states that "unjustified regulatory barriers to renewables self-consumption, including for tenants" must be removed. The first steps towards promoting tenant electricity further were implemented in the last EEG amendment. Within its framework, the tenant electricity surcharge was increased, the entitlement to remuneration in the context of system operation by third parties – in the "supply chain model" – was clarified, and the possible but still insufficiently defined aggregation of systems in neighbourhoods was implemented. It remains to be seen to what extent the identified barriers can be overcome and the great potential of tenant electricity for the urban energy transition can be tapped.

The article "Solar Prosumers in the German Energy Transition" was published in "Energies 2021" (Volume 14, Issue 4) and is available via the following link.

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