UK solar power growth halves for second year running

New solar power installations halved in the UK last year for the second year in a row, as the fallout of government subsidy cuts continued to shake the sector.

Labour said the figures showed the government’s commitment to green energy was “nothing but an empty PR move”.

The UK numbers were so poor that they caused overall EU solar growth to flatline at a time when record amounts of new solar were added globally.

Europe’s solar trade body said the UK had the slowest growth of the world’s top 20 solar markets, the lowest prospect for growth among its European peers in coming years and the worst political outlook.

James Watson, the chief executive of SolarPowerEurope, said: “Solar power has been voted the most popular energy source in the UK, it is therefore sad to see the UK government not take advantage of the huge potential of solar.”

New solar capacity in the UK declined to 0.95GW last year, down from 1.97GW in 2016 and 4.1GW in 2015.

The fall was so steep that the UK acted as a drag on the EU as a whole. “Even though 21 of the 28 EU markets showed growth, this wasn’t enough to compensate for the British losses,” the trade body said in a new report.

British solar firms have been hit by a round of subsidy cuts in 2015 and 2016, as well as changes to business rates for buildings with rooftop solar.

Rebecca Long-Bailey, the shadow business secretary, said: “Tory policies on solar including dramatic cuts to feed-in tariff subsidies, business and VAT rate hikes, and obstruction to clean power auctions have held back one of the cleanest, cheapest forms of energy.”

The UK currently sits third in the EU for total installed solar, but growth is expected to lag far behind other member states over the next four years.

By 2022, SolarPowerEurope forecasts the UK will add just 2.1GW of solar, while Germany will add 20GW, France 11.7GW and Spain 8.8GW.

Turkey was Europe’s brightest solar spot last year, recording “gigantic growth” of 30%, driven by Istanbul’s renewable energy targets.

For the first time, China installed more than half of the of solar power capacity added worldwide in 2017.

A separate report by Bloomberg New Energy Finance predicted on Tuesday that the falling costs of wind and solar power would see the technologies grow to provide half of global electricity generation by 2050.

Adam Vaughan

This article first appeared on the Guardian

edie is part of the Guardian Environment Network

Comments (1)

  1. Trevor Smith says:

    Why should this come as a surprise? UK Gov rightly, in my view, reduced the massive subsidies (amounting to 10x market value in some cases) for this technology. In the UK, solar PV only has a load factor of around 10% and that output, such as it is, is a poor fit with demand. Until 2025 we have 10GW of geriatric coal-fired power station capacity that can be switched on and off to compensate for the peaks and troughs in renewables. It is anyone’s guess where the investment is coming from for electricity generation "when the sun don’t shine and the wind don’t blow" in the next decade once our ageing coal and nuclear plants close … or simply pack up

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