The next few years are a huge opportunity for UK solar.
Take Theresa May’s recent green paper on British industry.
Green papers fell out of fashion in the 2000s, and this is the first major one for a long time. It is a ‘consultation’; the government wants to know what industry leaders care most about before setting out a policy.
May wants to strengthen Britain’s “world-leading” industries, including energy. She wants to make energy more affordable and to boost energy storage. We all know May wants a clear picture on industry before she negotiates Brexit. Industry leaders have until 17 April to give views on how UK industry can move forward.
The UK needs to rebuild our energy infrastructure. So how does solar fit into this?
We know that the government has favoured nuclear technologies in the green paper introduction, but we have seen the fallout of Toshiba (caused by its nuclear division) and the risks of Brexit and European support for nuclear policy.
Solar is at the heart of the opportunity. The solar industry creates jobs, keeps skills and IP in Britain, and supports growth. The government department that runs energy (BEIS) expects solar to be among the lowest cost forms of clean energy by 2020. Already, the cost of rooftop solar-generated electricity now is lower than the cost of the grid to transport energy to the same household. At any time in history, where one technology is so vastly superior to another, it has disrupted the market and lead to massive change.
The UK can be the global leader in solar innovation and technology – unlike other energy areas such as nuclear, where countries like China, France and the US are already ahead.
So what does the solar industry need to help this?
Investment. Investors in solar are doing their job, by continuing to invest. NextEnergy Capital has raised significant capital to invest in solar – £465m in equity and £270m in debt in the last three years.
This is helping drive solar forward and answer our infrastructure challenge. Solar is the most distributed and lowest cost form of energy production, with a positive impact on the environment. Private institutional investors gain attractive long-term returns through dividends and capital growth. And the UK gets investment in jobs, skills and IP.
The final piece in the puzzle is sellers of solar assets. The lifeblood of solar is innovative, creative solar developers to deliver this meaningful step change in UK energy infrastructure. The investment opportunity is clear: solar investors like us need quality solar assets to invest in.
Abid Kazim is among the speakers at our inaugural Managing European Solar Assets conference, held at London's RIBA Building between 24 and 25 April 2017. More information on the conference and to book tickets can be found here.