Electricity is expensive, and at some point you may be required to have a solar system on the roof. So why not capture solar power straight away, even on apartment buildings? “We get a lot of inquiries,” says Rudolf Stürzer. The lawyer is chairman of the Munich and surrounding area house and landowners association. “But many then left the consultation feeling very cool.” The reason is easy to name but complicated to deal with: bureaucracy.
There are around 40 million buildings in Germany. According to studies, their shells and facades offer a theoretical potential of 1,000 gigawatts peak, i.e. performance under ideal conditions. 1000 gigawatts, which corresponds to around 1000 coal-fired power plant blocks. Theoretically. In practice, this value quickly collapses. Not every facade can be fitted with solar modules, and not every roof is suitable. And the sun doesn’t always shine either.
There would still be plenty of room for improvement. But Germany is predominantly a tenant country. Landlords are asked to ensure that rented houses are also equipped with photovoltaic systems. Either as investors, or by allowing tenants to install such systems on and around their properties. Actually, says specialist lawyer Stürzer, there is also interest among landlords; many want to make a contribution to the energy transition.
But for this to work, the homeowners have to overcome a few hurdles. Private landlords in particular, who only own one house that they rent out, shy away from the effort that they will have to deal with if they get involved. On the one hand, the system must be registered with the Federal Network Agency. This can be done relatively easily online – but this is often a problem for older landlords.
The landlord as an energy provider?
Once this hurdle has been overcome, the big question comes: Should the electricity generated be sold directly to the tenants, called direct marketing? Or does the landlord also act as an energy provider? In the first variant, a contract is drawn up in addition to the rental agreement. All you need is a second meter to measure the consumption of electricity from the solar system. So far, so comparatively simple.
Actually, the state also wants to promote PV systems on apartment buildings and has invented the so-called tenant electricity surcharge for this purpose. For systems with up to ten kilowatts peak this is 2.67 cents per kilowatt hour, for systems between ten and 40 kilowatts peak it is 2.48 cents per kilowatt hour. However, you only get this surcharge if you act as an energy provider to the tenants.
This means that you provide the PV system, and whatever additional electricity the tenants use comes from an electricity supplier that the landlord chooses. To do this, the landlord must provide electricity meters and take over the operation of the measuring points. In practice, this usually works via online-capable meters whose measured values end up in a cloud. You can easily call up the landlords there. Everything is possible, but experts advise that the effort is only worth it for properties with more than ten residential units.
The biggest obstacle, however, is not even the administrative burden, but rather another regulation. This means that the price of electricity from the PV system that landlords want to sell to tenants may not exceed 90 percent of the price charged by the local basic supplier. In Munich, for example, these are the municipal utilities, in Berlin the Vattenfall Group is responsible. Now, on the one hand, there are electricity providers on the market that offer cheaper tariffs than the basic suppliers.
On the other hand, tenants may not be obliged to purchase solar power from the landlord. It can happen to landlords that not all tenants go along because they can get electricity cheaper elsewhere. This of course makes things less attractive for landlords.
After all: the business registration no longer applies
They then receive a feed-in tariff when they feed electricity into the grid. However, this is significantly lower than the potential income from tenant electricity: for smaller systems up to ten kilowatts peak it is 8.2 cents per kilowatt hour, for larger systems it is 7.1 cents. After all, landlords who operate a PV system no longer have to register a business as before. Instead, they fall under the small business regulation if their turnover from the PV system does not exceed 22,000 euros per year.
Landlords who don’t want to have anything to do with billing, applications and all that nonsense can outsource everything to third-party providers. They then take over this service, but of course they also have to pay for it – this doesn’t make the matter any more financially worthwhile for the landlord. Also possible: The tenants set up a cooperative and set up a PV system themselves, provided the landlord agrees to this. But you then have to take care of the billing yourself or outsource it. The facility can be purchased or leased.
So things are still not really that simple. That’s why many homeowners, especially private ones, are still hesitant. “The inquiries are numerous,” says Rudolf Stürzer from the Munich Home and Landowners Association, “but what is left in the end is little.”