Interest in subsidies for photovoltaics is huge, but there are several obstacles to approval

Interest in subsidies for photovoltaics is huge, but there are several obstacles to approval
Interest in subsidies for photovoltaics is huge, but there are several obstacles to approval

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Solar panels could save more than one business in the current energy crisis. However, according to experts, both the state and the companies themselves, who started construction too late, underestimated the preparation. Almost 4,000 companies apply for subsidies for photovoltaic power plants, but the state does not have enough people to approve them in time.

The call for “Photovoltaic systems with/without storage” is a program of the Ministry of Industry and Trade (MPO), which, as part of the National Recovery Plan, had the task of resurrecting the economy after the effects of the coronavirus pandemic.

Originally as help after covid

“When the program was being prepared, it was not known that electricity would cost as much as this year,” explains Jan Krčmář, executive director of the Solar Association. However, due to high energy prices, there is now a huge interest in subsidies for photovoltaics.

“The program is set up well, there is a lot of interest in it. But the problem is the length of time in which subsidy applications are evaluated. The program was announced in March, and even today we are registering a number of companies that applied for subsidies immediately after launch, i.e. during March, and they still do not have their projects evaluated,” Jiří Kvíz, head of the subsidy policy committee of the Association of Small and Medium Enterprises, told SZ.

The project was launched in March this year. A total of 3,914 businesses have already applied for the subsidy, according to MPO spokesperson Miluš Trefancová. However, the Ministry has so far approved 1,019 applications for a total of 1.7 billion crowns.

“All projects must be completed during 2023. If the companies that applied in March and do not yet have it approved, they will probably not start investing until the beginning of next year, and they are already in the grip of various permits, delivery times, supplier capacities and so on . This puts the final deadline at risk, and thus the payment of the subsidy itself,” explains Kvíz.

All submitted projects have a total value of over 17 and a half billion crowns, to which the state would potentially contribute 6.7 billion. In total, the state allocated 7 billion crowns for aid in the framework of the call for the installation of photovoltaic power plants.

According to the Quiz, the problem is neither the amount of allocated money nor the process of submitting proposals, which is, on the contrary, simpler than in the past. In short, the Ministry does not have the personnel capacity to approve submitted applications quickly enough.

“Only a few of the entrepreneurs decide to go into the project even without a subsidy, so they just wait for the subsidy to be approved. This not only deepens the energy crisis, but also makes components more expensive every month,” says Kvíz.

Evaluation should be faster and the capacities of the Ministry should be significantly strengthened. Tomáš Prouza, president of the Trade and Tourism Association of the Czech Republic, also agrees.

It is said that the ministry intends to correct this and, according to Trefancová, it has already strengthened the personnel capacities of the department that processes applications.

The problem is also that the actual payment of subsidies takes place only after the construction of solar power plants is completed, but before the companies start construction, they must be sure that the state will contribute to it in the end.

“The Czech Republic fares significantly worse in terms of the slowness of the permitting process,” says Prouza. According to him, the construction is delayed, for example, by the “nonsensical demands of preservationists”, and therefore the process needs to be made more efficient. If the subsidy is approved late, companies may not meet the mentioned deadline by the end of 2023.

“Already at the beginning of spring, we discussed with the MPO about simplifying the permitting process, a legislative proposal was even prepared, but its rapid implementation was blocked by the Minister for Legislation Šalomoun, and the MMR took a very passive approach to it, as it was partly about amending the Building Act,” he explains to SZ Prouza.

The director of the Solar Association is also afraid of the problem of building permits. “We have had a proposal and request on the table for several months to increase the requirement for a building permit from 20 to 50 kWh and to simplify construction above 100 kW. This will help hundreds of companies and it will also help the authorities that will be burdened.”

Why is there suddenly such interest in RES?

“We have to admit that we fell asleep in the Czech Republic. The fact that thousands of companies are now turning to MPO means that the conditions should already have existed so that companies or households built a long time ago could have it,” says Krčmář.

As the director of the Solar Association explains, the ministry probably could not have expected such an onslaught when preparing the National Recovery Plan, as no one could know how much electricity would cost at the moment.

“There, I would stand up for the people in the ministry because, like part of the market, they are overwhelmed with requests. The national recovery plan was a response to covid and the price of electricity was different,” explains Krčmář from the Solar Association.

According to him, however, this does not change the fact that we are to some extent responsible for the current situation. “Now we are paying for the fact that, according to the former governments, we don’t need photovoltaics too much, that we need conventional power plants and nuclear power for the future, that Putin is a reliable partner and the like,” says Krčmář.

“We and other associations have been calling attention to this for several years, so that the government, instead of chasing and criminalizing the solar sector, supports the construction of new renewable energy sources, but it stopped here.”

Solution?

The solution may be, first of all, to increase the capacity of the ministry and speed up the approval of projects.

Furthermore, according to Prouza, it is necessary to “update the cost curve of PV installations in order to take into account the current price of works/components and take into account in the next call with an increased subsidy.” This means that the Ministry must respond to the increasing prices of material, labor and other expenses associated with the construction of the power plant.

“Photovoltaics probably won’t solve the problem of expensive energy in the winter, but if companies already have it approved, they can, for example, start building at the beginning of next year and already reduce costs in the summer,” Kvíz concludes.

The article is in Czech

Tags: Interest subsidies photovoltaics huge obstacles approval

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