Future of solar power looking bright for UK

UK solar PV installations are set to jump from one gigawatt (GW) up to eight in the next five years, according to electrical distributor Rexel.

A heat map produced by Rexel, which compares installations to date with forecasts for 2016, reveals that despite cuts to the Feed-in-Tariffs (FiTs), the UK is on course to exceed expectations. 

Rexel UK director Brian Smithers said: “The UK is already at 1.4GW and with the Renewable Obligation Certificate (ROC), the commercial equivalent of the FiT, likely to drop by as much as 30% on 1 April, we expect to see a rush of large scale installations in the first quarter of 2013.” 

“As energy prices continue to rise, grid parity – the peak where the cost of generating renewables is equal to or less than buying electricity from the grid – is getting closer and closer. If grid parity is reached before 2016, the UK could significantly exceed the forecast.” 

The promising signs for solar power are not solely constrained to the UK however, with Germany and Italy set to lead the pack by 2016, with 55GW and 25GW of installed capacity respectively.

The rapid drop in the cost of panels has also ensured that installations across the rest of Europe are also on the rise.

IMS Research, the consultancy behind the data for the heat map, claims that the particularly adverse economic conditions in Spain and Greece are reflected, with both countries only adding 3GW of installed capacity by 2016.

Its research manager Sam Wilkinson said: “Things are brighter elsewhere though, and we expect both France and the UK to reach 8GW in the next five years, while Eastern Europe should increase from just 3GW currently to over 12GW.”

Smithers noted that countries like Germany have moved on from installing cheap products for a quick financial gain to taking a longer term view.

“If the rest of Europe is to deliver on the forecasts, we need to learn from this experience and work to educate both installers and end-users that a better quality product delivers a better yield.

“PV is gaining popularity as energy prices rise and the cost of panels falls, but only by ensuring installers have the right level of expertise and are fitting the right products, will the industry secure a level of generation that is still a good investment for businesses and consumers alike,” he said.

Conor McGlone

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