Government’s new solar strategy aims to turn ‘rooftops into power stations’

The Government has today launched its new solar strategy which aims to open up the market for mid-size, commercial and industrial onsite generation and to complete one million roof installations by the end of 2015.

Much of the strategy’s focus will be on increasing mid-size deployment (larger than 50 kWp and up to 1 MWp), particularly on commercial and industrial buildings.

By driving cost reductions, innovation and improving the supply chain, the Government says its strategy will deliver a step-change in the deployment of solar PV in the UK by 2020.

The focus on solar PV systems for commercial and industrial sites not only “lowers electricity bills, protects against future electricity price rises and reduces carbon emissions”, they are capable of matching on-site generation with on-site demand due to the scalability of the installations.

Launching the strategy, climate change minister Greg Barker said solar power had been on a “long journey” but has now matured to become one of the “most exciting prospects in the British energy mix”.

“Costs are falling, technology is improving, and demand is increasing. So I want to make sure we seize the opportunity which solar PV offers to the British economy, to the environment, to our energy mix, and to the people who could benefit directly from it,” Barker said.

“We need to turn rooftops into power stations and help consumers move from just being supplied with energy by big firms to being “pro-sumers”, producing and using more of our own self-generated electricity,” he added.

The strategy did, however, highlight some of the barriers to the wider take up of solar PV by business are thought to be similar to those that prevent them from taking up energy efficiency.

Issues include the ability to access capital, the transaction costs (management time), prioritisation of other issues, suitability of the building stock, and split incentives, primarily landlord/tenant issues.

The Government says these barriers can be significant for companies of any size but are likely to be particularly acute for SMEs.

Solar PV accounted for 14% of renewable electricity capacity in the UK at the end of 2013, generating over 2TWh during the year.

Solar Trade Association chief executive Paul Barwell said: “Solar has not only been recognised by DECC as a key UK technology, but now has its own dedicated strategy – the first in Europe.

“It’s a clever move by the UK Government to start strategising to maximise its stake in a global market estimated at $134bn [£81bn] by 2020. With The Royal Society, the IPCC and even Shell anticipating solar could be the world’s biggest energy source, the UK needs to make the most of its R&D, product design and manufacturing skills to steal a march in the global clean energy race.

“The industry couldn’t be keener to work with DECC to realise the benefits of solar power for householders and for UK plc,” Barwell added.

Friends of the Earth executive director Andy Atkins also welcomed the strategy, adding: “Clean, renewable power like solar is our future, and with Greg Barker rightly pointing out that it will soon be cheaper than gas, we need the whole of Government to move fast to ensure solar projects everywhere can rapidly take off.

A recently published report by edie, surveying 406 people responsiblle for energy management in their organisations, found that 40% of respondents have some onsite generation with 30% considering it in the next 12 months. Access the report, Energy Managers: Procurement, Planning and Purchasing Prioirities 2014/15, here

Leigh Stringer

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