Searching for the UK’s new solar

Little more than seven weeks after the government published its FiT consultation response and six months after the proposals were first publicised, today is the day the new FiT regime comes into force.

The 20-day pause has been lifted and from this morning installations can once again be accredited, albeit under the reduced rate of 4.39p/kWh.

Having recovered from the initial shock, set new records for deployment in the final quarter of 2015 and had time to take stock, the question is now very much one of how solar can continue in the UK, and not if.

What has become clear is that solar must change and adapt to the new environment. Pitching the technology as a wise financial investment cannot continue with returns of less than 5%. While the reduced rates and deployment caps will undoubtedly lead many installers to either downsize or exit the market altogether, an increasing number appear confident that they will continue to do business.

Models are changing and it’s not just about hitting that magic 4kW figure any longer, it’s about sizing installations to a household’s unique demand profile. Educating consumers on their energy bills – and how to reduce them – is the new sales pitch.

This is even truer when it comes to the commercial rooftop sector which, with COP 21’s momentum driving behind it, could now become the industry the government has hoped it would.

And if the UK market is too tough an environment to do business until costs fall further, a growing number of British businesses are exporting their expertise and growing their offerings in international markets.

Complementary technologies coming onstream will also aid the industry. And it’s not just limited to battery storage either, with a large number of installers training for alternative techs such as LED lighting, smart meters and other energy saving materials.

Last week, Solar Media’s Solar Finance and Investment conference heard that PV was far from finished. Lightsource CEO Nick Boyle said solar was now ready to compete with fossil fuels and a panel of industry executives pointed towards the potential for storage and PPAs to keep the UK solar sector moving forward.

And today we are launching our new trending topic on Solar Power Portal, collating all the stories, commentary and insight into how solar can continue to do business and thrive in the UK.

The Solar Power Portal Roadshows, which return in March and April, have also been reworked to not just comment on UK solar as it stands, but also educate and inform of the opportunities that remain and connect you, the installer, with commercial and public sector end users who still have a big appetite for solar.

The government’s extensive cuts and restrictive new regime have certainly created a bump in the road, but it has become clear that there is no reason UK solar cannot continue on its path. The industry has only been truly active for five years and has already overcome similar hurdles.

Chancellor George Osborne might have done his level-headed best at stopping solar in its tracks, but he only seems to have created the new UK solar in its place.