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Published on March 25th, 2015 | by Jake Richardson


4% Of UK Electricity Could Come From Solar By 2020

March 25th, 2015 by  

The UK government recently said Britain could reach a level of solar power that would generate 4% of its electricity. This is very different from another estimate which said less than one percent of Britain’s electricity would come from solar by 2030.


Solar panels costs have plunged though, so the government revised its numbers. Secretary of State for Energy and Climate Change Ed Davey made some key remarks about what the UK’s solar future might look like: “He said he expected up to 14 GW of solar by 2020 – up from 5 GW at the end of 2014. That equates roughly to 1.5% of total UK annual electricity to just under 4%. He said he expected it to grow further in the next decade.”

However, the government will no longer subsidize large-scale solar farms. These are facilities with 5 MW of solar or more. Of course, we all know that national economies are emerging from the worst recession in decades. Supporting a fledgling industry like solar power seems to be both reasonable and future-forward, especially considering that new solar installations create jobs that are skilled and generally pay decently.

Both solar and wind power need support at the policy level, but politics too often has a way of interfering with the development of renewable energy. Conservative politicians frequently have ties to the fossil fuel industry, and some of them work strenuously to hold back anything that could hurt it.

Meanwhile, millions around the world die prematurely from exposure to harmful air pollution, and the planet suffers due to climate change emissions. Fortunately, average citizens can be better informed and more sensible than some politicians, and vote with their dollars by purchasing home solar systems.

The UK has been said to have a climate that doesn’t seem suitable for solar, but Germany is hardly a sun-kissed child of the tropics, and yet has become a world leader in solar power.

Image Credit: kloniwotski, Wiki Commons

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  • JamesWimberley

    Utility solar in the UK is soon going to look like Chile or Texas: no subsidies, but a genuinely open and competitive market with pretty fair regulations. Only “pretty” fair because solar farms are still subject to the planning whims of Eric Pickles. But he’s a completely political animal, and the feared NIMBY opposition to rural solar farms is failing to materialise, so the balance is shifting towards the Tory landowners queuing to cash in.

    Quite why solar farms (with obligatory cuddly lambs grazing underneath) are OK in rural England and wind turbines not escapes me completely, but the I’m only an expat Brit. It’s great news for the invisible offshore wind developers, who get billions in subsidies.

    • Coley

      NIMBYISM, most objectors do so on the grounds that it will spoil the view, it needs pointed out that irreversible CC will have a much bigger impact on their ‘views’

  • Richard Head

    Am I missing something here? 14GW will not be 4% of the UK’s electricity demand considering 100% of it is currently about 40GW.

    • CR

      14 GW of solar at 12% CF would cover about 4% of a 40 GW average demand. Currently installed UK solar is even lower CF in practice.

      (Or equivalently, 14 GW of 12% CF solar would produce about 15 TWh per year, which is about 4% of an annual demand of 350 TWh.)

      Now, that CF number might rise a bit if higher efficiency panels get used, but electricity consumption should also rise if we are to get rid of fossil fuel cars and oil/gas heating. Certainly the number seems to be in the right ballpark.

  • mike_dyke

    As someone who lives on the South Coast of the UK, I feel the need to point out that the UK has some of the most varied climate anywhere, so is suitable for any sort of renewable energy production.

    The UK doesn’t have one climate, but is a constant battle between hot
    air from the continent, wet air from the jet stream/atlantic and cold
    air from the Arctic with some large hills in the middle (The Pennines) just to stir things up!

    The south (and east) of the UK are more sheltered by the continent and get more Sun so are suitable for solar panels (as I’ve got on my house) but not for wind (unless you go offshore). The north and west (including Scotland) get more wind and rain and less sun so are more suitable for Wind farms (onshore and offshore)

    So, pick a climate – we’ve got plenty to choose from!

    • CR

      Yes, and you could also add tidal and wave power to the list of renewable sources that will work in UK if they are to work anywhere.

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