As 2015 draws to a close, Solar Power Portal runs through some of the biggest and most interesting stories of the year. In our fourth and final part, we visit the government’s overhaul of the feed-in tariff and arguably its motivation for doing so; a mammoth quarter for solar deployment which took everyone – and particularly DECC – by surprise.
It was a consultation response almost two months in the making and the Department of Energy and Climate Change waited until the very last day of parliament to reveal that the new feed-in tariff regime – centred around a domestic rate of 4.39p/kWh – would come into force on 8 February 2016.
It’s an overhaul that begun in earnest in the Spring when DECC first confirmed that a root and branch review of the feed-in tariff would be conducted later this year in line with European Union state aid requirements. Having tasked Parsons Brinkerhoff with formulating a new tariff, DECC shocked everyone with its frugal proposal of 1.63p/kWh on 27 August.
The industry immediately leapt into action and began a vigorous campaign. Numerous MPs came out in support of UK solar and DECC ministers were dragged through some fairly boisterous parliamentary sessions on the subject. Campaign groups such as 10:10, Friends of the Earth and Greenpeace too enjoyed themselves, graffitiing solar panels on paving slabs outside DECC and much, much more.
That campaign certainly appears to have had some effect. The department relented – albeit slightly – and tinkered with its allocation of the £100 million allowance to bring more spending up front. Installations up to 10kW in size will benefit from the higher rate, whereas standalone installs will have to fight over scraps. Stringent deployment caps will now be used to ensure spending does not spiral out of control in the future.
While it is certainly not helpful – and DECC’s impact assessment makes for grim reading – it could’ve been considerably worse. The task is now for solar installers to make the 4.39p rate work.
It’d be entirely inaccurate to say that the UK’s first quarter rush to install solar was at fault for next year’s FiT regime, but it certainly fed into DECC’s rhetoric of keeping bills low in the face of higher-than-expected deployment. Although DECC’s figures took a few months to catch up, as it turns out, the UK installed a mammoth 2.53GW of solar throughout the first three months of 2015.
Central to this was the 1.4 ROC deadline on 31 March, by which time any developer with a project hoping to receive the 1.4 ROC rate had to have it connected. The deadline artificially created yet another much-maligned rush, with tales of IPCs being flown across the country from site-to-site in helicopters not uncommon.
That level of deployment ensured the UK remained the top solar PV market in Europe and put the country on a path towards a total capacity of around 9GW, which the UK is believed to have reached by now. Its prospects for the forthcoming year are not as dramatic, but still stand to be significant.