UK ranked in sixth place for small-scale solar in 2013

In a year when large-scale, ground-mounted solar dominated UK deployment, it may come as a surprise to many that the UK ended up in sixth position globally for the most solar PV capacity installed in the small-scale segment.

The small-scale segment is comprised of residential and small non-residential rooftops (≤100kW). The residential segment is comprised of small PV installations (generally below 10kW on a global basis, but effectively <4kW in the UK).

The other part of the small-scale solar PV segment (the small non-residential rooftop segment) includes many of the supply and installation features common to the residential segment.

The small non-residential rooftop segment includes agricultural buildings, educational institutes, medical centres, and the SME (small and medium size enterprise) or small business community. There are various other ‘customer’ categories that make up the small rooftop segment.

The small-scale segments globally tend to have different supply-chain dynamics, financing mechanisms, and project ownership. In the UK, the small-scale segment is also very close to what can be filtered into the <50kW feed-in tariff (FiT) bands.

During 2013, the <50kW FiT bands saw, by far, the most activity in the UK from the FiT scheme. The UK actually has a third band that is the mid-scale, but in the context of global summaries, we are bypassing this for now. More on that in a few weeks, when the UK landscape is updated by NPD Solarbuzz.

The fact that the UK ended up in sixth place globally is due to several factors.

Small-scale residential and sub-50kW commercial solar is still economically viable in the UK through FiTs, and this segment has stability in policy also now. Furthermore, this segment is the most likely to react in the short-term to domestic electricity price increases (of which there has been no shortage in 2013).

There is also now an established network of credible and experienced installers in the UK focussed on selling into the small-scale segment.

New financing continues to flow into the small-scale segment as well, with the returns from PV FiTs being assigned as a low-risk, long-term asset class. This now complements residential installations (either upfront financed or through the free-solar model) and continued drive from councils and new home-builders.

There are not that many countries globally that have been able to create sustainable small-scale markets, with some of the leading countries for PV today (China and India for example) being almost exclusively based on large-scale PV deployment.

An extended version of this blog is available for download now, on the NPD Solarbuzz website, titled Small-Scale Solar PV Market Trends in 2013.