Declining solar module prices offer great opportunities in endangered UK PV market

Published:  23 June, 2011

LONDON: Keynote speakers from 'The Solar Future, UK' have shared their insights into the future of the UK solar photovoltaic (PV) market, following the Government’s announcement to slash feed-in tariff (FiT) rates by up to 72% for solar arrays over 50kWp.

Commenting on the current state of the UK solar PV market Edwin Koot, chief executive of Solarplaza, said: “There are two sides to the UK market today: a buoyant market for domestic and smaller commercial installations that is very competitive, but which will undoubtedly be subject to a reduced tariff from next year; and a large-scale market that’s in a state of shock and depression.

"But with module prices falling so rapidly, the economics of even large-scale projects can change very quickly. The UK is an interesting place to be involved in solar right now. Manufacturers, installers and investors need to be prepared to react quickly to the opportunities that arise, and to do that they need a very good understanding of the business context.”

Responding to the outcome of the fast-track FiTs review, Shadow Energy Minister Huw Irranca-Davies said: “The announcement on the FiT smacks of a Government strong on words, lacking in action and at odds with its stated aim of being ‘the greenest Government ever’.

"Minister Greg Barker’s decision to go ahead with the proposed tariff reductions for solar PV installations larger than 50kW hammers a nail into the coffin of many future modest medium-scale community, school and hospital schemes, risking thousands of jobs in an industry that was beginning to flourish, and shows there is no coherent strategy for decentralised energy.”

Meanwhile Ray Noble, solar photovoltaic (PV) specialist at the Renewable Energy Association, blames the Treasury for the outcome of the review. He said, “The UK Government appears in total chaos relating to the future of solar energy all as a result of calamitous mistake by DECC in its previous Comprehensive Spending Review submission to the Treasury. The Treasury will not allow DECC to correct its error and this could seriously affect the rate of growth of solar in the UK. The solar industry is calling on the Prime Minister to intervene.

“The solar industry is reducing prices significantly and is playing its part in moving solar energy in the UK towards being a mainstream electricity generator, the latest predictions show grid parity could be reached before 2017.”

Speaking of what needs to happen now, Juliet Davenport, chief executive and founder of 100% renewable electricity supplier Good Energy, said, “Good Energy thinks the Government needs to do a lot more to recognise the important role solar has to play in Britain’s future energy mix.

"One of the casualties of the FiT review will be community-sized schemes, as well as others involving public buildings such as libraries, schools and hospitals, which all have the potential to contribute to a low-carbon future.

"Other countries with a similar climate to the UK, such as Germany, have placed solar at the heart of their renewable energy policy and Britain is in danger of being left behind. What is important now is that the Government learns the lessons from the FiT review and develops a clear strategy to support decentralised energy in the UK.”

The Solar Future UK takes place on 29 June at Central Hall, Westminster. It will bring together more than 150 industry experts to analyse the future of the UK solar PV market; featuring presentations from DECC, Ofgem, the NFU and many others.

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