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Future for solar installers is bright, says government's solar advisor

Posted by Tasha Kosviner on 11 February 2014 at 3:24 pm

Solar panel installers have a two-year window in which to capitalise on the opportunities offered by the government incentives for installations. At least that’s the message from one of the country’s leading solar experts and government advisor on solar energy.

Speaking at the Solar Energy UK Roadshow in Huntingdon, Ray Noble told installers, manufacturers and industry experts that the solar industry was buoyant but that the gradual scaling back of incentives such as the feed-in tariff (FITs) and renewables obligation certificates (ROCs) meant that the time to act on solar PV is now.

The ROCs scheme, whereby generators of renewable energy receive certificates which they then sell back to energy companies in order to help energy companies meet their renewable energy targets, will close to new generators from March 2017.

Similarly, FIT rates for solar PV are reduced each year. This degression is designed to support the solar PV industry a little less each year until the price of solar electricity reaches grid parity - the point at which an alternative energy source generates electricity at a cost that is less than or equal to the price of purchasing power from the grid. Solar has already achieved grid parity in part of southern Europe but it is yet to reach that point in the UK.

“Grid parity will be achieved long before the projected 2020,” Mr Noble, who is also the Solar Trade Association’s solar photovoltaic (PV) specialist consultant, told the roadshow. “My belief is that as the cost of solar comes down and the cost of grid electricity goes up, grid parity will happen in the next three years.”

“After the election it might be that incentives are tailed off or limited to just community groups and installations over 10MW,” he added. “So the time to go for it is now.”

Nonetheless, the future for solar remains bright, he added.

“Government policy is now to move away from small solar installation to larger fields and roofs,” he said. “Eighty per cent of planning permission application for solar fields are being granted and it’s a market that’s continuing to grow. Nothing can stop solar now.”

His assessment is echoed by energy and climate change minister Greg Barker who last week told the London leg of the roadshow that solar PV is now “a better investment than a pension.”

Mr Noble urged installers to start looking at larger roofs and covered car parks as potential for large scale solar installations. "Sensitively situated solar fields" were also a good investment. He also said the industry needed to begin working more closely with the construction industry to install building integrated PV panels (BIPV) in place of traditional building materials.

Solar Energy UK Roadshow, aimed at installers and manufacturers in the solar industry, took place in six locations across the UK from 3 to 11 February.

More Information

YouGen guide to feed-in tariffs

YouGen guide to solar PV

If you have a question about anything in the above blog, please ask it in the comments section below.

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3 comments - read them below or add one


kristahilesComment left on: 17 February 2014 at 3:59 am

Solar energy business is in full swing. Not only individuals are using it but they are also being used at state level. Many countries are using them to produce electricity

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GenFIT c/o PV FIT Ltd

GenFIT c/o PV FIT LtdComment left on: 12 February 2014 at 4:07 pm

So FITs will be cut for small microgenerators in 2 years time, and subsidy redistributed to larger centralised solar power plants, owned by high-net worth investors or the energy companies. How is this a bright future for solar installers?

The FITs degression mechnism has not hit it's instalation volume quotas since it wa introduced. Automatic degression is 3.5% applied every 9 months, so based on current installation volumes today's FIT rate of 14.9p/kWh will equate to 12.9-12.4p/kWh in 36 months time.

Equipment costs have remained stable since Chinese import tariffs were introduced last year. Installation infrastructure such as labour, scaffolding, etc, will be hard to bring down any further, if anything labour costs will rise with inflation.

Unless the cost of grid electricity increases by at least the projected value of the FIT's in 3 years time, or equipment costs plummet where will grid parity come from and what incentive will be left for smaller scale systems?

Please can we have site of what the STA and Government are basing this claim on and an explanation of what it means for the wider solar industry and potential microgenerators....


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ksousaComment left on: 12 February 2014 at 11:15 am

Great news.

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