Solar has grown rapidly in the UK’s power mix. A decade ago it provided virtually nothing; now it regularly generates about a fifth of the country’s electricity for hours on a summer’s day. Electricity generation from solar panels reached a peak of 9.38GW last Friday, edging close to the record of 9.42GW. The highest percentage of power to ever come from solar was 28.5% on 6 May – and last Sunday came come close with a 27.5% share. However, the household market has been dubbed the “solarcoaster” by industry, because of the booms and busts driven by the feed-in tariff regime, the main government support scheme, which started in 2010. Those incentives were slashed dramatically at the start of 2016, largely killing the financial attraction for householders. Installations plummeted and companies folded. Next April the scheme closes entirely and ministers are yet to signal that it will be replaced. Unsurprisingly, that has led to a bleak outlook for household solar. Growth halved last year, which the government says is “not surprising”, given earlier rapid expansion. Only 14MW of domestic solar is forecast to be fitted this year, down from a peak of 606MW in 2011, according to Bloomberg New Energy Finance. “This is heartbreaking for me,” Alan Simpson, an adviser to the shadow chancellor, John McDonnell, said. One of the architects of the feed-in tariffs, Simpson said the importance of household solar was not only the clean energy it brings online but the cultural, political and social impact of engaging people with renewables at a local level. He blames the government and big fossil fuel-based energy companies for bringing household solar to a halt. “We’ve got a completely inverted sense of how the shift into clean energy systems will take place and the role households can play in the process. We disempower and discourage households from being part of the clean energy transformation,” he said. Solar advocates are pinning their hopes for a revival on the continuing fall in the cost of panels, and complementary technologi es, including household batteries and electric cars. Jeremy Leggett, the founder of Solarcentury, one of the UK’s largest solar companies, said: “It’s in flux but it’s heading in a very exciting direction. We’re coming out of the doldrums, whatever the government does.” While the former oil geologist admits the UK solar market is stagnant, he thinks the direction of travel is clear. Household batteries such as Tesla’s Powerwall, for example, enable people to consume rather than export their solar electricity, which makes more financial sense. In energy supplier sells a kilowatt hour of power to a householder for in the region of 15p, much higher than the 5.24p a solar home can earn for exporting to the grid and the 4.01p for generation under the feed-in tariff.
Guardian 27th June 2018 read more »