Travelling from London to South Wales you’d expect the weather to take a turn for the worst as you exit the Severn Bridge (or Pont Hafren for our Welsh-speaking readers). Yesterday, however, was an exception to this rule. And, on a day when the sun was shining brighter than it has for months, day one of the Solar Power UK Roadshow: Coping with the Cuts got off to a flying start.
Gathering at the quite magnificent Celtic Manor Resort in Newport, more than 50 UK solar industry representatives joined the Solar Power UK team to hear from solar specialists on how to work around the upcoming feed-in tariff cuts. Despite this week being one of the busiest in the solar industry calendar since December last year (the MCS database crashing yesterday morning being a case in point), local installers made an effort to jump down from customer’s roofs and make their way up to Coldra Woods.
The event’s panel of four speakers, including Ray Noble, PV Specialist with the Solar Trade Association, Martin Cotterell, Founder of Sundog Energy and member of the MCS steering committee, Andrew Padmore, Chief Executive of Egnida and Cathy Debenham, Founder of YouGen, all offered their expert advice and opinion on how to move forward from the cuts crisis that has overshadowed the UK solar industry for too long now.
Opening the show, Ray Noble outlined the current market situation, before introducing the different pricing models available to those working in the PV industry. Remarkably, more than 1GW of solar has now been installed in the UK – despite the original target being only 860MW by 2015. “This is a fantastic achievement”, said Noble, “you should congratulate yourselves on reaching this point.”
Noble’s presentation shed some light on the gloomy areas of industry that have been dragging many down for so many months, offering hope that the new feed-in tariff rates will continue to work for the majority of those in the solar industry and that the areas of adjustment will subsidise where there is any shortfall.
“I think the new degression rates will still promote a successful solar market in the UK, and this, alongside an expected 6p export tariff and continued RPI, or at the very least CPI, rate will carry us up until the point when we reach grid parity.”
The next speaker, Martin Cotterell, continued to provide confidence to the room, clarifying the new EPC requirements and the effect these will have on the PV industry. He also outlined how existing solar companies can get involved with this new process.
“We have already begun to model how we can benefit from the new EPC requirements, as many of our team members can be up-skilled to install energy-efficiency measures as well as solar PV. This marks a huge opportunity for our industry,” he explained.
“PV will also be counted towards reaching an EPC level D, therefore many more will continue to be able to benefit from the higher feed-in tariff rates, even if their house is not quite up to D standard.”
After providing some confidence to the room on how the new feed-in tariff rates will shape a more positive solar future, the latter portion of the event focussed on the upcoming Green Deal policy and how to market your business to beat the cuts.
Offering some much-needed explanation on exactly how Government’s flagship policy will work, Newport local, Andrew Padmore detailed the ins and outs of the Green Deal.
“Government is not putting any funding into this policy, so if it works, it will go on forever,” he explained.
“The structure of the Green Deal is very simple: an investor pays for energy-efficiency measures to be installed and the consumer pays for these measures through their energy bills. However, there are many details surrounding this that make it far more complicated to understand.”
Padmore went through these details one by one and in the end, provided the clarity the delegates needed in order to take advantage of the policy when it is rolled out.
Closing the seminar, Cathy Debenham, who founded industry website YouGen on the back of her vast experience in the journalism and marketing sectors, talked through how solar installers can market their company in order to stand out from the crowd in this period of uncertainty.
Talking through the importance of the four Ps: product, price, place and promotion; Debenham helped explain how installers who are struggling to stand out from the increasing PV crowd, can remain profitable throughout the feed-in tariff uncertainty.
“These points may seem simple and straightforward, but you’d be surprised how many people do not adhere to them,” she said.
After an abundance of questions from the audience, the event closed for the day with many a happy installer making their way back home with (hopefully) a lot more industry confidence under their belts.
“It’s great to hear that it’s not all doom and gloom,” said one attendee, “after all of this uncertainty it seems like there may actually be light at the end of the tunnel.”
“I came here to find out more about the Green Deal as the information available on DECC’s website is so confusing! I feel a bit more prepared for October now,” said another.
Day two of the events kicks off today at Exeter Racecourse in Devon – join us for one of the four upcoming roadshows – we’re coming to a town near you!