Solar installations surge to beat subsidy cut-off date

Domestic and commercial solar installations in the final quarter of 2015 shot up by approximately 63% year-on-year, as developers scrambled to get projects up and running before subsidy cuts took effect.

The Department of Energy and Climate Change (DECC) today (22 January) released the latest solar installation statistics for October to December, showing that more than 65,000 installations were issued in these months compared with 40,000 for the same period in 2014.

The total capacity of the installations – which was largely dominated by installations under 10kW – looks set to reach 355MW.

The rise in installations – up from more than 43,000 for July to September – was an unsurprising increase as companies and homeowners rushed to deploy projects before the new subsidy cuts came into force last week (15 January).

Paul Barwell, CEO of the Solar Trade Association said: “The statistics released today are not unexpected as an increase in the amount of solar being deployed ahead of the cut on 15 January was always likely.

“However, the ‘huge rush’ some predicted has not really occurred, perhaps reflecting the 2015 stable market conditions as well as the cut in absolute terms was less than in 2012 – an 8p cut instead of a 20p cut. We won’t know the full impact until January’s stats are published.

“We have ongoing concerns how the new caps system will be implemented. How will homeowners know what their Feed-in Tariff rate will be before they agree to put solar on their roof? How does an installer know what to tell its customer? We look forward to working with DECC and Ofgem to resolve these issues.”

Under the new subsidised cuts the tariff rates for domestic solar installations has decreased from 12.03p/kWh to 4.39p/kWh.

The Government has announced that a maximum cap has been placed on the amount of solar installations it wishes to see every quarter. While this could prove damaging to the sector the Government is willing to listen to requests for unused capacity to seep in to the next quarter.

Concerns remain about the clarity of these caps and the flexibility of the installers to renegotiate time frames if the capacity is reached.

Renewable Heat Incentive

Coupled with PV installations latest from the government reveal that solar thermal made up just 2% of applications under the non-domestic RHI, and 12% under the domestic scheme.

Non-domestic RHI received 276 applications – 203 of which were accredited – under 200kW since November 2011. In contrast biomass boilers under 200KW reached more than 12,500 with 11,755 accredited.

A new solar trade agreement has been launched which allows member companies of the Solar Trade Association (STA) to repair and maintain damaged installations that were constructed by other companies.

The STA has previously asked for £95m in subsidised funds – equivalent to adding £1 a year on average household energy bills from 2019.

Last week David Cameron rubbished claims that the Government wasn’t doing enough to support the solar industry, claiming that the UK has ‘one of the largest solar installations for almost any country’.

Feed-in tariff: Timeline of events 

Matt Mace

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