UK Solar Sees Record-Breaking Start To The Year

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The UK was likely the 5th-largest solar market in 2013, according to the latest quarterly report from NPD Solarbuzz. In fact, in the first quarter, the UK snatched up about 10% of the global market. The first quarter also marked the first time the UK broke 500 MW of demand in a single quarter.

uk solar power wind turbines
Wind turbines and solar panels in Cornwall, UK.
Image Credit: Shutterstock

This all follows a big rise in renewable energy in general in the UK in 2012. 11.3% of all UK electricity was generated from renewables in 2012, beating 2011’s 9.4% by almost 2% — that’s quite an increase for a slow-changing sector like the electricity sector.

“The UK PV industry has been through several phases now as part of its long-term goal to become a key part of the UK’s overall energy mix,” Finlay Colville, Solarbuzz Vice President, noted.

“Phase 1 can be considered as everything pre-FIT. Phase 2 was the FIT-frenzy period of 2011. Phase 3 was the FIT-hangover and adjustment phase leading up to the end of 2012. And phase 4 was ushered in at the start of 2013, driven by a rejuvenated UK ground-mount sector.”

While wind power and biomass have led renewables in the UK, solar has also played a part, and it’s clear that solar is becoming increasingly competitive. Heck, as Ronald noted, solar already beats nuclear in grey and rainy England. Of course, pretty much everything beats nuclear pretty much everywhere these days.

Mr Colville has more insight on the solar situation in the current UK:

It remains somewhat ironic that ROCs were originally the intended platform for offshore wind and that DECC’s initial altruistic PV ambitions were to empower low-income households through subsidizing PV micro-generation through FITs in combination with other energy efficiency savings schemes. But that’s the past.

Nobody expected PV pricing to be where it is today, and as such we end up in a position where ROCs create a win-win situation for DECC and the UK PV industry, with both ground-mount and commercial rooftop having a stable incentive scheme to 2017. From a global PV perspective, it really doesn’t get more long-term than that. It is actually far more valuable in the short term than any renewable energy portfolio aspirations that are underpinned by dates as far out as 2025 or 2030.

Cumulative solar power capacity has now gone over 2 GW in the UK, and the country looks set to add a full 2 GW or so in 2013 alone. Large-scale solar is going to play a big part of that. Mr Colville noted that there have been nearly 200 large-scale MW ground-mount solar farm proposals in the past few months.

Ideally, however, the UK needs to update its feed-in tariff policy in order to get rooftop solar demand going again. As quickly indicated above, a strong feed-in tariff was put into motion in 2011 that got rooftop solar demand growing strong, but it was quickly, even unexpectedly, cut not long after, hurting investor and consumer confidence, as well as decentralized solar growth in general. I haven’t heard of any movement on this front, unfortunately.

Solarbuzz thinks 20 GW by 2020 is a real possibility for the UK. We’ll have to wait and see.

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Zachary Shahan

Zach is tryin' to help society help itself one word at a time. He spends most of his time here on CleanTechnica as its director, chief editor, and CEO. Zach is recognized globally as an electric vehicle, solar energy, and energy storage expert. He has presented about cleantech at conferences in India, the UAE, Ukraine, Poland, Germany, the Netherlands, the USA, Canada, and Curaçao. Zach has long-term investments in Tesla [TSLA], NIO [NIO], Xpeng [XPEV], Ford [F], ChargePoint [CHPT], Amazon [AMZN], Piedmont Lithium [PLL], Lithium Americas [LAC], Albemarle Corporation [ALB], Nouveau Monde Graphite [NMGRF], Talon Metals [TLOFF], Arclight Clean Transition Corp [ACTC], and Starbucks [SBUX]. But he does not offer (explicitly or implicitly) investment advice of any sort.

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