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The "Act on granting priority to renewable energy sources" (Renewable Energy Sources Act, in short: EEG) is still the overriding basis for the construction and operation of photovoltaic systems in Germany. It promotes the development of electricity and heat production from renewable energy sources. The objective of the law is to increase the share of renewable energies to the electricity supply at least by 35% by 2020. Wind and solar energy are among the renewable energy sources. Climate protection is paramount in this law. The law forms part of a series of laws, adopted in the last few years, to reduce in the dependence on fossil fuels in the long term. Like Germany, the EEG and similar laws have already been copied and enacted by almost 50 countries.

The EEG promotes the production of electricity by: 

  • Solar radiation energy, such as photovoltaic
  • Geothermal energy
  • Biomass
  • Hydropower
  • Landfill, sewage and mine gas

This is how the law functions in relation to photovoltaics:

1. Electricity feed-in to the local power grid

The operators of photovoltaic systems have been given the possibility to feed in the self-generated electricity against a statutory remuneration for a period specified by law into the local power grid. The law obliges the network operator to receive the electricity and to pay the so-called feed-in tariff for it. The level of the feed-in tariff is determined by the type of facility (on-roof or ground-mounted), the size and then, when the system was first put into service. Because the feed-in tariff, which was paid over the entire period, in principle falls towards the end of each calendar month percentage-wise to the previous month. This is called degression.

The law obliges the responsible network operator to connect the corresponding system, to receive the electricity and to undertake the remuneration thereof. Because of these statutory obligations, equipment and network operators need not to conclude a contract!  

Instead of demanding the feed-in remuneration from the local network operator, the plant operator can also directly sell the electricity on the current stock exchange. He thereby becomes an energy provider.

2. Power consumption in the immediate vicinity of the facility

according to the EEG, operators of photovoltaic systems can also allow the electricity generated by them in the immediate vicinity of the facility to be consumed by a third party, when the electricity for this purpose is not directed into a network. In view of the steadily increasing electricity prices, the electricity consumer can use and/or buy current more favourably in this way on site and the electricity networks are not burdened additionally.

The EEG is constantly subject to change, because the protection of the environment is a progressive process, which is impacted by the economic concerns and political interests. The law that only knew the feed-in of electricity to maintain the feed-in remuneration now opens up the way for the facility operators to the electricity market through various mechanisms (market integration model, market premium) and enables the economic self-consumption of electricity directly there where it is produced. This protects the electricity networks, but also the purse of electricity consumers. Under the following link, the entire current wording of the law can be retrieved: >>

EEG Clearingstelle: Interesting facts about photovoltaics

The link >> provides important information on the topic of renewable energies. The EEG Clearingstelle was created by the Federal Ministry for the Environment. It answers current questions about the law and offers the possibility to solve disputes outside of the courts.

Registration of photovoltaic facilities

Newly installed photovoltaic plants must be reported to the federal network agency for electricity, the Bundesnetzagentur. This registration is a prerequisite to the payment of the remuneration. In the registration form, the location and the capacity of the facility must be declared. In this way, the federal network agency for electricity can determine how high the performance of the newly installed photovoltaic facility is this year. The overall performance decides namely what the level of the feed-in remuneration for the following year is going to be.   

The federal network agency for electricity keeps an online report portal that can be accessed under the following link: >> 

Further information to the process of the message is to be found under following link: >>

Statutory basis of building law

Germany has numerous laws and provisions to regulate the construction of photovoltaic systems. The most important ones are:

  • The German building code ("BauGB")
  • the master building plans of cities and communities, which is based on the building utilization ordinance ("BauNVO")
  • the building ordinance of the respective German states ("Länder")

Installations on buildings  

A building permit for photovoltaic installations on buildings is basically not required. However, there are often exceptions for installations on

  • public buildings
  • heritage-listed buildings (also protection of groups of buildings) and
  • especially large or high plants/houses or also
  • Façade installations

Where there is doubt as to whether planning permission is required or not, one should consult the relevant responsible authority. There, the granting of the required authorization may be requested.

In the building ordinances of the German states, it is regulated as to what extent photovoltaic installations are allowed without a specific authorization. Eventual contingent regulations can usually be found under the section "Licensing and process-free construction projects". On the pages of the Federal Solar Industry Association ("BSW") both current compilations of this paragraph, as well as interesting information sheets are listed on the topic. >> 

Open space systems

The energetic building extensions of free-standing facilities and the subsequent intervention in nature, caused in 2010 that free-standing facilities henceforth may only be erected under strict conditions. As a result, free-standing facilities may in principle only be erected on "ecologically worthless" areas, such as:

  • on surfaces already sealed up
  • on converted areas, i.e. formerly used for economic or military purposes, like for example old colliery sites, petrol stations or airfields
  • along highways or railways

In addition, the area must be designated as "area for special usage to generate electricity" in the current development plan.

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