Ronan Lambe senior associate in the energy team at legal firm Pinsent Masons – The recent end to subsidies has resulted in something of a cliff edge for the development of new large scale solar parks in the UK. While many in the market are optimistic that the point at which the economics of solar park development can be underpinned by proceeds of sale of the electricity generated alone is not too far away, we’re not quite there yet. Solar demonstrates an ability to deliver a considerable proportion of our energy. Given rapid and continuing price decreases in the key components of a solar park and wide-scale public support for solar, has the government missed a trick in cutting all support at such a crucial time? The deployment of solar power in the UK has been rapid, rising from a very low base in the last decade to now almost 12GW of operational solar (four times the capacity of the new Hinkley Point C nuclear project). This still only represents approximately 3.4 per cent of our total electricity consumption (compared to Germany’s 41.2GW providing 15.8 per cent of electricity consumption). Solar parks can be constructed in comparatively short periods of time, minimising disruption to local communities. Dual-purpose usage means farmers leasing land for solar parks can often continue to graze certain livestock. No by-product or waste is generated by solar parks, they are noise-free and returning the land they are built on to its previous use at the end of the solar park’s operational life is comparatively straightforward.While new solar development is approaching a position where it can economically stand on its own two feet, arguably now is the crucial period for government to support the technology. With political focus so squarely on cost of energy, will the next government be brave enough to support this industry in its hour of need before an eagerly anticipated new dawn?
Scotsman 12th May 2017 read more »