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Employee of Meyer Burger in Freiburg

Photo: Hendrik Schmidt / dpa

Germany's largest solar cell manufacturer, Meyer Burger, is threatening to relocate its production to the USA. "One scenario is to relocate production to the USA," CEO Gunter Erfurt told the Süddeutsche Zeitung. There are enormously cheap loans and cheap energy there. Whether this will happen depends on additional funding for the European solar industry. If he had to announce the exodus of his workforce, it would be his "biggest professional defeat," Erfurt said.

Meyer Burger currently produces in Bitterfeld in Saxony-Anhalt and Freiberg in Saxony and, like the entire European solar industry, has been suffering from strong competitive pressure from China for some time. The Bundestag is therefore discussing a possible special bonus to promote industry as part of a solar package. The subsidy could flow through the usual promotion of renewable energies – provided that components from Europe are installed. However, the coalition cannot agree on this so-called "resilience bonus". The SPD and the Greens are in favour, the FDP is against.

Protest letter to the ministry

As SPIEGEL reported, Meyer Burger is also one of the co-signatories of a letter of protest to the Ministry of Economic Affairs, in which a reorganization of the tender criteria for wind and solar farms is being discussed. In it, the industry demands that "qualitative criteria" be taken into account for funding, specifically such as particularly climate-friendly technology and socially sustainable supply chains. This, the signatories hope, could slow down Chinese manufacturers and strengthen European industry. Only the introduction of qualitative criteria in the auctions would create "fair rules of the game" and support the ramp-up of production capacities in Europe.

However, there is a threat of resistance from the member states, who fear that the expansion could become significantly more expensive as a result.