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.
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