Fairy-tale town of Marburg up in arms over decree on solar panels

The university town of Marburg is where the Brothers Grimm collected many of their fairy tales, and the cobbled streets and medieval buildings look like they could have come straight out of one of their illustrated children's books.

Now, following the approval of a new law, the quaint red-tiled roofs may soon have to be adorned with solar panels and the usually genteel residents are up in arms.

From October this year it will be mandatory for solar panels to be installed on new buildings, as well as those being expanded, altered or renovated. Any property owner who fails to comply will face a fine of at least €1,000 (£790).

The city's governing coalition of Greens and Social Democrats hailed the measure as a landmark, which placed Marburg at the cutting edge of Germany's rigorous campaign to cut carbon emissions by up to 40 per cent by 2020. The German branch of Greenpeace praised the city of 80,000 as a "pioneer for renewable energy". But not everyone is impressed.

Herman Uchtmann, a conservative Christian Democrat town councillor has accused the city's coalition of trying to run an "environmental dictatorship".

"The town council should not have the right to force people to install solar panels on properties. The whole thing should be voluntary," Mr Uchtmann said.

"There are some young families who just can't afford the installation and there are older people who may not live to reap the financial benefits."

For the average household, installation costs have been estimated at around €5,000. Ardent backers, such as the city's Green Party mayor Franz Kahle, insist that although the up-front figure is expensive, it would be offset by energy savings within 15 years.

However, since the ruling was passed last week, it has emerged that Mr Kahle is not a home owner but a tenant who would therefore enjoy the benefits of the new law without having to pay for them.

Mr Uchtmann is now spearheading a campaign to have the ruling outlawed by the courts before it comes in to force.

"I think that people should be able to decide whether they want solar panels on an individual basis and not by decree," he said.

His position has been backed by energy suppliers and the Marburg home owners' association. Heinz Ludwig, its spokesman, said that home owners were being penalised by the new law. "The high costs that we will be obliged to pay for solar power will deter many of us from investing in other climate-conscious measures," he said.

The criticism is a setback for Germany and its attempts to portray itself as the world's greenest nation. Similar criticism was levelled at wind energy providers after the government began heavily subsidising the installation of wind farms in eastern Germany in the 1990s.

Germany's Solar Industry Association, which oversaw the opening of the world's largest solar energy plant in east Germany earlier this month, admits that the initial cost of solar panels for home heating is a major barrier for would be consumers.

The association favours a combination of solar panels for heating and greater energy efficiency in the planning and construction of new homes. A solar powered housing estate set up on the site of a former French army barracks outside Freiburg in southern Germany is home to some 5,000 residents.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
ebooks
ebooksAn introduction to the ground rules of British democracy
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
SPONSORED FEATURES
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Telesales Executive - OTE £25,000

£13000 - £25000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Would you like to be part of a ...

Recruitment Genius: 1st Line Technical Support Engineer

£19000 - £23000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This IT and Telecoms company ar...

Recruitment Genius: Assistant Manager - Visitor Fundraising

£23000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: The Visitor Fundraising Team is responsi...

Recruitment Genius: Developer

£30000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an opportunity to join ...

Day In a Page

The Silk Roads that trace civilisation: Long before the West rose to power, Asian pathways were connecting peoples and places

The Silk Roads that trace civilisation

Long before the West rose to power, Asian pathways were connecting peoples and places
House of Lords: Outcry as donors, fixers and MPs caught up in expenses scandal are ennobled

The honours that shame Britain

Outcry as donors, fixers and MPs caught up in expenses scandal are ennobled
When it comes to street harassment, we need to talk about race

'When it comes to street harassment, we need to talk about race'

Why are black men living the stereotypes and why are we letting them get away with it?
International Tap Festival: Forget Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers - this dancing is improvised, spontaneous and rhythmic

International Tap Festival comes to the UK

Forget Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers - this dancing is improvised, spontaneous and rhythmic
War with Isis: Is Turkey's buffer zone in Syria a matter of self-defence – or just anti-Kurd?

Turkey's buffer zone in Syria: self-defence – or just anti-Kurd?

Ankara accused of exacerbating racial division by allowing Turkmen minority to cross the border
Doris Lessing: Acclaimed novelist was kept under MI5 observation for 18 years, newly released papers show

'A subversive brothel keeper and Communist'

Acclaimed novelist Doris Lessing was kept under MI5 observation for 18 years, newly released papers show
Big Blue Live: BBC's Springwatch offshoot swaps back gardens for California's Monterey Bay

BBC heads to the Californian coast

The Big Blue Live crew is preparing for the first of three episodes on Sunday night, filming from boats, planes and an aquarium studio
Austin Bidwell: The Victorian fraudster who shook the Bank of England with the most daring forgery the world had known

Victorian fraudster who shook the Bank of England

Conman Austin Bidwell. was a heartless cad who carried out the most daring forgery the world had known
Car hacking scandal: Security designed to stop thieves hot-wiring almost every modern motor has been cracked

Car hacking scandal

Security designed to stop thieves hot-wiring almost every modern motor has been cracked
10 best placemats

Take your seat: 10 best placemats

Protect your table and dine in style with a bold new accessory
Ashes 2015: Alastair Cook not the only one to be caught in The Oval mindwarp

Cook not the only one to be caught in The Oval mindwarp

Aussie skipper Michael Clarke was lured into believing that what we witnessed at Edgbaston and Trent Bridge would continue in London, says Kevin Garside
Can Rafael Benitez get the best out of Gareth Bale at Real Madrid?

Can Benitez get the best out of Bale?

Back at the club he watched as a boy, the pressure is on Benitez to find a winning blend from Real's multiple talents. As La Liga begins, Pete Jenson asks if it will be enough to stop Barcelona
Athletics World Championships 2015: Beijing witnesses new stage in the Jessica Ennis-Hill and Katarina Johnson-Thompson heptathlon rivalry

Beijing witnesses new stage in the Jess and Kat rivalry

The last time the two British heptathletes competed, Ennis-Hill was on the way to Olympic gold and Johnson-Thompson was just a promising teenager. But a lot has happened in the following three years
Jeremy Corbyn: Joining a shrewd operator desperate for power as he visits the North East

Jeremy Corbyn interview: A shrewd operator desperate for power

His radical anti-austerity agenda has caught the imagination of the left and politically disaffected and set a staid Labour leadership election alight
Isis executes Palmyra antiquities chief: Defender of ancient city's past was killed for protecting its future

Isis executes Palmyra antiquities chief

Robert Fisk on the defender of the ancient city's past who was killed for protecting its future