Government Announces Strategy for UK Solar
The Government announced its UK solar strategy last Friday, which at its heart pledged support for mid-size rooftop solar. It emphasises the untapped potential of commercial and industrial roof tops, which to date have failed to ignite. This market has “big opportunities” and we can expect to see a push for rooftop solar in schools, supermarkets, car parks, factories, public buildings and offices.
DECC has a clear target of 1 million solar homes by 2015. The figure currently stands at 500,000 so this is a big drive. The Government has also pledged to install 1GW on its own estate, including some 24,000 schools in England and Wales and ministry of defense airbases, “large sheds” and training colleges such as at RAF Lyneham. Greg Barker has additionally set an ambitious target of 20GW by the start of the next decade.
Push for mid-size 50KW to 1MW
DECC refers to supporting well-sited and well-designed solar, including the large market of small-scale rooftops, but also the previously untapped potential of mid-sized installations. Reduced visual impact is hailed as a key benefit for this section of the market. Disappointingly, the Government is somewhat muted in its support for large-scale solar farms. Solar PV currently has the highest public approval of any energy technology (over 80%), and it would be a shame if those following STA best practice guidelines and engaging the local community in planning of solar farms were penalised as a consequence of a few badly designed sites.
So what are the issues?
- Red tape –
A key issue with mid-scale installations has been red tape – many businesses are leased in UK (compared to Germany where offices are often privately owned) presenting difficulties with landlords and what happens if the business moves. The government would like to cut through this tape to make it easier to install solar; quite how they do this remains to be seen.
- Energy storage –
Energy storage today is still out of reach of the average consumer due to high price. It is however recognized as a key technology and DECC have awarded £1.3M to Moixa Technology to install and demo battery storage units in 300 homes across the UK.
- Grid integration –
Managing system integration with the grid is still a key issue and there is no clear indication how this will be resolved in the future. The National Grid maintains it can accommodate another 10 GW of non-controllable solar, however there is much confusion in this area.
- High cost –
Another barrier to PV has been high planning and financing costs. The strategy talks about different solutions including crowd funding, green deal finance and power purchase agreements. DECC also pledges to explore how Green Investment Bank funding can support PV in community energy efficiency projects.
Setting a precedence for Europe
The strategy has been welcomed by the solar industry and has set a precedence for Europe as the first of its kind. Climate change and energy minister, Greg Barker is championing solar power as he believes it has “the greatest potential to empower millions of people across the UK with low-cost green energy and long term will provide 1000s of good quality local jobs”. We embrace this and look forward to seeing the next steps.