Solar in the UK could deliver the same amount of electricity production as the proposed Hinkley Point C nuclear power station within two years, according to the country’s largest PV generator.
In an open letter to Prime Minister David Cameron, Mark Turner, operations director at Lightsource Renewable Energy, said that solar was better positioned than Hinkley C, not scheduled to come online until 2023, to prevent imminent power blackouts predicted in the UK.
Turner acknowledged the value of Hinkley C to the UK’s long-term energy security, but highlighted the much shorter term need to provide new generation capacity to replace coal-fired power stations due to be decommissioned soon. National regulator Ofgem has predicted an energy drought by 2015 as this happens.
He said solar was well positioned to provide this short-term need: “The solar sector in the UK is gaining traction and the experience in Germany and Italy has shown that the solar industry has the capability to deliver the same energy production as Hinkley Point C in less than two years and at a comparable cost.”
But Turner said the announcement of the £92.50, 35-year strike price announced for Hinkley C on Monday would “shake investor confidence” in the role the government has to play in providing the “modest and declining support that this nascent business sector receives until it becomes fully self-sufficient”.
He said solar would not offer the “whole solution”, but said that if the deployment of renewable energy overall was properly supported, within a couple of years renewables could consistently supply well over 10% of the UK’s energy mix “completely free from the vagaries of the global fossil fuel markets”.
“This would then combine with the 9% from Hinkley Point C when it eventually comes on stream,” Turner said. “We urge you to provide more education and resource to the nation regarding the true benefits of solar power technology and make the nation aware that we can take this whole matter into our own hands if we chose to.”
He urged the Prime Minster to move from “debating about taxes on energy bills and take a serious look at how our future energy needs can be met sustainably”, a reference to Cameron’s call in the House of Commons on Wednesday for a review of “green taxes”.
He said in Prime Minister’s Questions that the government would review and possibly reduce support for green energy in an attempt to reduce consumer bills.
This story was updated on 29 October 2013 after Lightsource Renewable Energy asked us to clarify that renewables generally, not just solar, could contribute over 10% of the UK's energy within a couple of years if properly supported.