BERLIN (Reuters) - German Environment Minister Peter Altmaier expects German solar panel installations to nearly halve this year, showing that efforts to curb subsidies and get solar expansion under control have yielded results.
"I expect that about 4,000 megawatt (MW) will be installed this year," Altmaier said on Tuesday at the annual Handelsblatt Renewable Energy conference.
Germany is the world's largest solar market with roughly 35,000 MW (35 gigawatts) of capacity, equaling the output of about 20 nuclear plants, after spending billions of Euros in so-called feed-in tariffs on the technology.
In 2012, installations reached a record at 7.6 GW following 7.5 GW in both 2010 and 2011, but falling feed-in tariffs have led to a shift to other markets such as China, which is expected to supplant Germany as the world's top market for new installations this year.
Implemented by the government, feed-in tariffs are paid for by utilities, which then add the cost on to consumers' bills. Popular resistance is growing to paying for an energy source that accounted for only 4.6 percent of Germany's gross power production in 2012.
That has led to a steep drop in the tariffs, which, alongside free-falling solar panel prices and fierce Asian competition, has caused a number of German companies to file for insolvency including Q-Cells, Solon and Conergy.
Reporting by Christoph Steitz; editing by Jane Baird