2013 proved to be another tumultuous year for the solar industry in the UK, despite early optimism that the UK solar market had finally managed to secure a steady policy framework with sensible degressions, the EU anti-dumping investigation threw all this into disarray.
The uncertainty surrounding the European Commission’s investigation acted as a severe constraint to deployment and created a “lost quarter” in the UK.
Although the fallout from the anti-dumping investigation is still being felt across the market, the UK solar sector has continued to perform strongly. Indeed, the whole global industry has experienced a year of growth, with an unprecedented 12GW of capacity installed in the last quarter of the year – taking the total capacity installed to 36GW.
This trend is predicted to continue right through to 2014, with NPD Solarbuzz upping its forecast to 49GW of capacity installed at the end of the year.
Solar Power Portal spoke to a number of UK solar veterans to get their views on the key trends that will affect the sector during 2014, below are their thoughts:
Reza Shaybani, chairman of the BPVA said:
“2013 has been a relatively a quiet year for the UK solar industry which has shown positive signs of recovery from the turbulent years of 2011 and 2012. We have seen growth in all segments including ground mount, commercial rooftop and the domestic market. 2013 also proved that the industry and the government can work together as partners to achieve their goals.
“Going into 2014, we need the government to get rid of some of the barriers to the future growth of the PV industry and continue with the stability and long-term planning which is key to the future success of our industry.
“The BPVA is confident that in 2014 we will see an even bigger increase in the deployment of solar PV in the UK. To achieve this and to support our members, in early 2014 we are launching a major public campaign to show the benefits of solar energy as well as the launch of a new rating programme for installers which would help the customers to choose the best of products and installers.”
Ben Cosh, founder and managing director of TGC Renewables said:
“Domestic solar now has better returns for home owners than at the peak of the boom, so if domestic installers can overcome the marketing hurdle they should do well.
“We’ll see more commercial and industrial roofs covered in solar as the STA works with DECC to remove the regulatory barriers in that market.
“Solar farms will get more community buy-in with responsible site selection, shared ownership models and, in the long run, by providing cheaper electricity to local people.
“Energy costs will be even more of a political football, as Ed Miliband continues to shift the debate into the right area for him: 66% of voters believe the government should take action to reduce the cost of house hold bills such as fuel and energy.”
Susannah Woods, marketing manager for Solarcentury said:
“I think there is still very good news for the UK market: it’s still one of the strongest markets in Europe, particularly for ground mount. In Q1 2014 it’s probably going to be the biggest in Europe for that period.
“We have good engagement with DECC officials; they understand what the industry needs and have a good granular grasp of what has to happen. That is a pretty good news story and I think we should see good steady growth in the sector.
“The drop to 1.4ROC is OK, but it has been made considerably more painful by AD measures. I think what will happen is that investors will get a little more creative. The challenge more is not the finance, it’s grid connection. I think the Tories don’t need to huff and puff and say all this ridiculous stuff they have said about solar farms because the market will naturally die down as a result of grid connections becoming more difficult.
“One of the key issues with the commercial rooftop market is that the three month degression model doesn’t work. When you start developing a project you can’t confirm what the feed-in tariff rate is going to be. That’s an uncertainty that doesn’t really work with businesses as you can imagine. They have to know what their feed-in tariff is going to be. DECC really needs to fix this three month degression and make it longer so that a system can be developed knowing what incentive you are going to have. And I think that DECC understands that. We all want to be building on roofs but government needs to fix the process.”
Nick Boyle, CEO, Lightsource said:
“Every single year we plan to do as much as possible in the summer period for two reasons: one, it’s easier to build and two, you don’t have this imminent sword of Damocles hanging over your head if you fail to connect by March.
“We have a number of 1.4ROC SPAs that will get finished in the first quarter for construction in the second quarter. That was the plan last year but anti-dumping absolutely scuppered that – the lack of certainty and question marks that it raised basically meant that the most productive time of year was completely hamstrung, so nothing got done.
“It leaves us in the ludicrous scenario again this year that probably 70% of what we’re going to do will be done in the first quarter – the wettest quarter, the snowiest quarter and the quarter with the biggest threat of missing the tariff. That’s something that the whole industry has to settle down on; hopefully, with no anti-dumping threat and stability that is something that the industry will be able to do next year.”
How do you feel about the year ahead? Let us know in the comments section.