This week saw more than 400 delegates convene at Twickenham Stadium to discuss the state of the solar and clean energy industries at this year’s Clean Energy Summit.

While the event was live blogged on Solar Power Portal here and here, we’ve picked out five key lessons the industry can take from the event.

PPAs are at the forefront of everybody’s minds

The government’s stance on solar has been made abundantly clear. It is not prepared to support any further ground-mounted solar deployment apart from those which it is already obliged to. What became most apparent this week is that the industry has already settled on how it plans to outmanoeuvre the government.

Power purchase agreements and private-wire arrangements have perhaps been too complicated a prospect to navigate as long as the Renewables Obligation has been available, but now its not, more and more developers are learning to understand and make the most of them. A panel discussing the future of the industry on Tuesday concluded just as much, with many developers setting their stall out.

And what’s most beneficial is that there appears to be considerable appetite for them.

Big corporates both want and need solar

“We do [renewables] because we want to be a business that's thriving and surviving in decades to come,” said IKEA’s Joanna Yarrow. The Scandinavian retail giant has been actively pursuing renewables for six years now and has invested more than €500 million in onshore wind, solar and other technologies since then.

IKEA is no longer the exception to the rule.

Heineken’s Anne Ollivier said the brewery was predominantly chasing rooftop solar opportunities to help it meet its efficiency targets and a host of other corporates at the event said just as much. There is a significant appetite amongst businesses of all shapes and sizes, and government policies relating to business energy efficiency is also laying the ground work for this to be of even further interest.

Businesses not only want solar to help them reduce their energy intensity, some of them need it to meet various targets and expectations. It’s now down to UK Solar to give it to them.

With 11GW+ of solar in the UK, O&M firms are well placed

There was much discussion about just how big UK solar is at the moment. DECC figures still place it around the 9.5GW mark but, owing to significant deployment both pre-FiT cut and pre-1.3 ROC closure, most delegates agreed the UK was now pushing 11, possibly even 12GW by the time the year’s out.

Developers and EPCs have made hay while the sun’s shone, but now it’s O&M’s turn. Customers need their assets looked after and optimised and companies offering those services are in prime position to take advantage of the wealth of new capacity. That a not inconsiderable number of EPCs have taken their leave of the UK market in the wake of policy upheaval has only resulted in opportunities growing larger still.

What became increasingly apparent throughout the Summit however is that scopes are changing, and the various O&M suppliers are learning that not all asset holders want the same service. It’s down to those suppliers to cater their offerings, incorporating everything from grass cuttings to in-depth, string-level testing.

Scale’s important, across the board

Lightsource’s Nick Boyle was forthright in his opinion on Tuesday morning that solar is no longer a cottage industry for the UK, and the evidence would, unfortunately, prove him right. Local residential installers are finding it harder and harder to operate independently and the recent spate of insolvencies has not been surprising.

This has lead to an ever increasing reliance on scale. Companies with that – and access to finance – can afford to operate with thinner margins. Those that don’t are likely to be swept away, increasingly the possibility of bands of installers merging together under one, solar-topped roof.

This isn’t just true of deployment either. Cost pressures on O&M suppliers to secure large portfolios have meant that smaller players are finding it harder to compete. It was said at February’s Solar Finance & Investment event that consolidation in O&M was inevitable. Just two months down the line, and that’s ringing true.

There are still ample opportunities in UK solar

Despite the gloomy outlook and declining deployment, what became abundantly clear over the course of the two-day event and subsequent storage-related conference was that opportunities in UK solar remain.

Whether it’s in O&M, commercial and industrial applications, PPAs, private-wire agreements, storage, international markets such as Ireland, or energy efficiency, it’s just a case of tinkering with current models and looking somewhere slightly different for them.

Syzygy’s John Macdonald-Brown chaired a commercial rooftop debate on Tuesday afternoon which ultimately concluded that the feed-in tariff, cut to ribbons as it has been, is becoming increasingly irrelevant. “There is life after FiTs, but it's more about embedded generation,” he said.

Nick Boyle meanwhile said the industry can be buoyed simply by the delegates prepared to attend the event. “It’s really reassuring seeing not only the quality of the names of the speakers but the positions of the speakers we have here today. This is not on the periphery of companies – these are serious companies making serious long-term investment decisions because this makes commercial sense for them,” he said.