Large Scale Solar UK Conference

Greg Barker’s Solar Roadshow speech in full

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    Greg Barker speaking at the first of the Restarting the Market series of solar roadshows.

I am delighted to be at Sandown today, launching the first in a series of six Solar Roadshows across the UK. As the Roadshows journey across the UK, so can the industry grow on its foundations to reach out to new markets and customers, and succeed across the country.

In the coming weeks events just like this one will be travelling the length and breadth of the UK to promote the deployment of Solar PV. We will journey to Glasgow, Swansea, Liverpool, Leicester and Exeter to get the message out there that solar PV is not only exciting, but it is affordable, bankable and ready to go - wherever you are.

I am delighted that DECC is contributing to each one of these roadshows. But more importantly, I am committed that we will travel with you on a more vital journey. A journey to place solar PV right at the heart of the UK’s energy mix. And to ensure we all reap the benefits which that will bring.

Reflection on journey thus far

The industry has come a massive distance in the last two years.

At times this journey has been difficult, but the UK solar industry can now benefit from the mechanisms, ROC and FiT, that have been put in place to give industry the transparency, confidence and longevity they need to build deployment.

Last month we reached a huge milestone. Solar is now, for the first time, a priority industry in the Government’s Renewables Roadmap. It is recognised as having a future as one of the key renewable technologies in the UK’s energy mix.

And solar, along with other industries, will benefit from the Coalition Government’s new Energy Bill designed to put in place measures to attract the £110bn investment needed to replace current generating capacity and upgrade the transmission and distribution grid by 2020.

This was recognised by the Prime Minister earlier this week, when he said on Monday “our reformed feed-in tariff is helping drive the growth of a vibrant and entrepreneurial decentralised energy sector, providing communities and business with a range of innovative clean technologies”.

He also re-stressed this Government’s commitment to the green agenda. He said “When I become Prime Minister I said I wanted Britain to have the greenest government ever and I am as committed to that today as I was then. But I want to go further”.

A leaner, keener industry can build on these stable foundations. Just last month we saw over 1500 installations in one week alone – that’s 5MW – under the FiT scheme. Last week again there were 1549 installations, almost 6MW. We have now seen over 400,000 installations and are currently seeing significant additional PV deployment under the ROC regime.

We stand of the threshold of 2GW. So let us unite together behind solar coming of age and the benefits it brings to economy, our communities and our renewable energy mix. But this is just the beginning. By the 2020s I want and believe solar to provide up to 20GW of our energy needs. The potential is clearly huge.

A local example

Just down the road from here is Dunsfold Park in Surrey.

The aerodrome there is famous as the home of BBC’s Top Gear test track and studios. However, the park now has another claim to fame. Dunsfold Park has become one of the nation’s only business parks to be fed entirely on ‘green energy’.

Next time a ‘star in a reasonably priced car’ hurtles through the “Follow-Through”, viewers might also make out 8,500 ground-mounted solar panels flanking the track. The 2MW installation will provide the business park at Dunsfold Aerodrome with enough electricity during working hours to power the entire business park with any excess energy generated fed back onto the National Grid.

This is a good local story and precisely the initiatives we need to see, up and down the UK.

Moving Forward

We have seen dramatically falling costs, that we need to drive down further to ensure solar PV plays its critical role in helping the UK meet its vital renewable energy targets.

I have said it before and I will say it again, we in the Coalition Government are absolutely committed to working with you to make that happen, but it is a two-way street. A real collaboration is needed; and you must play your part.

Collaboration and partnership between stakeholders is key, if we are to continue to drive costs down. It is vital to have a joined up approach in future energy development in order to achieve the correct secure and economic outcomes.

A key part of that collaboration is Government’s commitment to work in partnership with you to drive the sector forward. We will be publishing a UK Solar Energy Strategy later in the spring to set out how we planning to achieve that together. We will create a new Strategy Group to ensure that the sector is actively contributing to the policies which affect it.

We are also doing practical work, to support this high-level policy work. I am delighted to announce that we are publishing today a new MCS Guide to Solar PV Installation. This should become the “go-to” guide for PV system installers. Its widespread use will improve the reliability of installations, increase customer confidence in PV and help us all benefit from quality focussed engineering solutions. I pay tribute to those who have worked on this guide over the last few months.

We will be helping you promote solar PV both at home and abroad, ensuring that you can all capitalise on the existing commercial opportunities which are out there – and helping you create new ones too.

Just next week I am bringing together members from the sector with key Registered Social Landlords in the House of Commons to show how to place solar at the centre of big organisations’ business planning. Over the next few weeks I’ll be hosting similar meetings with Local Authority Chief Executives and the building sector.

Then there’s the Green Deal which we launched last week – this represents a fundamental shift in how we look at energy demand in the UK. 2013 is an important year for the economy, as we do everything we can to drive responsibly sustainable growth in the economy. I want solar to be part of Britain’s growth narrative.

But what does that mean in practice for everyone here? There are real business opportunities for you in the Green Deal and you will need to seize them with both hands. You should:

  1. Market Solar PV as an energy saving option.
  2. Place yourselves at the centre of your local Green Deal assessment and delivery networks.
  3. Diversify and exploit new business opportunities.
  4. Offer companies – from SMEs to FTSE giants – solutions to generating more of their own electricity, building greater resilience and certainty into their business models.

I know the sector is already working to lay the foundations needed for growth. The recently launched National Solar Centre will play a pivotal role in supporting the sector’s growth – driving forward innovation and standard setting which will increase confidence in the sector’s ability to deliver.

On this note, I am delighted to announce today that the National Solar Centre’s headquarters in St Austell, Cornwall will officially open on the 25 April. I look forward to cutting the ribbon.

Journey Abroad

You can see that the frameworks which are now in place as the new FiT and RO bands bed in, and the Green Deal transforms the way in which the public looks at energy efficiency and generation will be a firm foundation for sustained growth of solar PV in the UK.

But that’s not all. We are also seeing more and more opportunities emerge abroad.

Just a few weeks ago I met the Kenyan Energy minister, who is keen to get British companies into the Kenyan market.

There’s a new feed in tariff of 12 cents per KwH, guaranteed for 20 years, and the Kenyans are allocating 40MW blocks of land in North Kenya to build solar farms.

The government of India is planning to tap the most talked about solar rooftop segment potential (estimated at 92.7GW) in a big way, adding at least 1000MW capacity by 2017 100,000 villages in India are not connected to grid and 400 million people don’t have access to reliable electricity.

Due to the rising power deficit year over year, India faces the biggest blackout ever. The Solar Rooftop Plan seems to be a plausible solution, which may largely improve power accessibility.

These are just two examples but the UK solar sector are quickly developing the expertise to disseminate in global markets. We are working with colleagues in the FCO and UKTI to help British companies make the most of these opportunities.

Conclusion

As we rise to meet the road ahead and the challenges of the coming years we must continue to collaborate and innovate to put in place the foundations for a buoyant PV industry.

We will continue to encounter challenges and there are many bridges we will have to build and cross together.

But we have started paving the way and have put together a pathway for success, starting with the new incentives which are now in place provide the, and then moving on to deliver the vision we outlined in the Roadmap.

The solar strategy we are working on will take this further and look at how we can tackle the barriers that lie ahead and how we can work together to break these down. We look forward to hearing your ideas and working with you to deliver this in the Spring.

This is just the beginning of our journey together as we set our sight set on the future. A future where solar can help power our vehicles, heat our homes and deliver a diverse, low-carbon and secure energy mix.

We must unite together behind solar in sending out the message: solar is a great deal.

It is safe, it is clean, it is reliable, it is accessible, it is increasingly affordable and it is a totally scalable technology.

This is the message we are sending out loud and clear.

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