Energy and Climate Change Minister Greg Barker has once again publicly declared his desire to see the UK solar market reach 22GW by 2020.
However, he said the target was only aspirational and would depend on the solar indsutry's ability to continue driving down costs.
During parliamentary questions, Shadow Energy Secretary Caroline Flint called on Barker to include his 22GW solar ambition in the upcoming renewables energy roadmap, stating: “As installations flatline, Ministers have clung to the line that their plans will allow 4 million homes to be solar powered, with 22GW of solar to be installed by 2020.
“Will the plan for 22GW, which was announced in April, still be the government’s policy when they publish their renewable road map, or does he now accept that, because of his cuts, Britain will not reach that target for at least another 30 years?”
Barker responded: “What we said about deployment rates is that we have the potential to deploy 22GW if we can continue to drive down the cost of solar.”
The Minister continued: “22GW is certainly our ambition, but in order to meet that ambition we need not just deployment, but deployment at a level that the country can afford. That is what we are about on the government benches—delivering renewables at a rate that the country can afford and that delivers good value to consumers, as opposed to the open handed, open cheque book, high-cost model deployed under the Labour Party.”
Following the questions at Parliament, Barker took to social media site Twitter to state:
Reaffirmed at Questions commitment to massive expansion of solar but success depends on driving to grid parity this decade #Partnership— Greg Barker (@GregBarkerMP) November 1, 2012
Twitter user Martyn Williams probed the minister further, asking: "Is that reaffirmation the aim is 22GW then?" Barker replied:
The Minister previously caused confusion in the solar market after declaring on Twitter last February: “My new solar ambition a reformed FiT to deliver 22 GW of PV by 2020." The ambiguous wording of the message led many in the UK solar industry to believe that 22GW by 2020 was an explicit DECC target. However, it was later revealed that the 22GW figure was taken from a central scenario projection from a Department of Energy and Climate Change (DECC) Impact Assessment. As such, DECC has been keen to make clear that 22GW by 2020 is an ambition not a target. Barker came under heavy criticism for seemingly "making policy by tweets", the industry said.
Certain members of the solar industry have become frustrated by the lack of an explicit capacity target for solar. DECC has reiterated that it does not set explicit targets for any technology covered under the Renewable Obligation or feed-in tariff schemes. Solar’s upcoming inclusion in DECC’s renewable energy roadmap should go someway to alleviating fears in the industry that solar is being marginalised by the government. However, the back drop of declining residential installs and a proposed cut to large scale support has left many feeling pessimistic about solar’s future in the UK.