Representatives from across the UK solar sector today met with the Parliamentary Renewable and Sustainable Energy Group (PRASEG) for a seminar on the implications of the first Comprehensive Feed-in Tariff Review. Among the speakers involved were Head of the Feed-in Tariff Review Rachel Solomon-Williams, Founder and Executive Chairman of Solarcentury Jeremy Leggett and Gordon Edge, Director of Policy, Renewable UK.

Congregating at the House of Commons this morning, delegates heard what’s expected as we lead up to what could be the most pivotal moment in UK solar history.

Rachel Solomon-Williams confirmed today that the Comprehensive Review is underway in the Department of Energy and Climate Change (DECC), although she was unable to confirm details of when it would be revealed, or what the rates will look like. It was however established that DECC has to operate within the Treasury-imposed, fixed envelope. It was made clear that if this budget overruns, the funding will need to come from DECC, for which, unfortunately, there is no budget.

It was also reiterated that there are no planned changes before April 1, 2012 “unless earlier action is deemed necessary,” which is a phrase many will remember from the recent fast-track review, which ended in tariff rates as low as 8.5p.

Expressing industry’s feelings towards the upcoming review, Jeremy Leggett demonstrated that while many were once excited about the UK solar energy industry, the lead up to the review “feels like Groundhog Day”.

“While we were doing 200MWp, Germany did 7,000MWp. We have to overcome our culture of ‘big energy’ […] we need a ‘glide path’ of FiT degressions, not a ‘cliff’,” he explained.

“There is never progress without confrontation, and we have to take it to Treasury. We have to debunk the lie about the cost of green energy.”

Speakers also referred to new data published on DECC’s website, including MCS figures not yet on the central FiT database. According to the latest numbers, approximately 40% more installations have been completed than have been published by energy regulator Ofgem.

At the end of September 2011, 316.4 MW of installed capacity was confirmed on the feed-in tariff scheme, covering 80,886 installations. Solar photovoltaics represented 83 percent (264MW) of the total installed capacity, and 97 percent (78,540) of all installations.

A total of 202.6MW of capacity (72,896 installations) was sub-4kW retrofitted solar photovoltaics while domestic schemes represented 73 percent (232.3MW) of total installed capacity and 98 percent (78,923) of installations. Just 14.9MW of capacity was installed prior to 15 July 2009, covering 3,824 installations, had transferred from the Renewables Obligation.                                                                                                                                                                                   

The new figures also show that during September 2011, 84.7MW of installed capacity, across 16,020 installations, joined the scheme, representing the highest figures in one month (in terms of both capacity and installations), and 48MW more than in August 2011.

This represented an increase of 37 percent in total cumulative installed capacity and 25 percent in installation numbers.     

In terms of technology, the largest increase during September was in solar PV, with 80.5MW of installed capacity (15,450 installations) added to the FiT scheme, again the highest in one month. The largest contributor in terms of tariff codes was sub- 4kW retrofitted solar, with 44.8MW of installed capacity (15,245 installations) confirmed on the FiT scheme in September 2011.                                   

More than 48MW of domestic installed capacity (15,742 installations) joined the FiT scheme in September, an increase of 26 percent in installed capacity and 25 percent in installation numbers.

These increased figures confirm fears outlined in the recent blog post by David Owen, Founder and CEO of Solar Media, which points to the fact that solar PV is likely to once again become the victim of its own success. The “unless earlier action is deemed necessary” quote used by Solomon-Williams most certainly refers to the amount of PV installed in recent months, pointing towards a significant cut in feed-in tariffs which could take place as another fast-track review.

In the wake of recent events, industry is beginning to feel concerned about the upcoming review, with rumours circulating about just how deep the cuts will be. At present, nothing has been revealed by DECC.

Minister of State for Energy and Climate Change, Greg Barker will be speaking at the upcoming Solar Power UK conference.