Image: HMG.

The solar industry has hit back at official government deployment statistics, arguing that without an improved collation system they have become “meaningless”.

Official statistics released by the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS) last week claimed that solar deployment in May 2019 stood at around 5.8MW, made up chiefly of installations of residential systems.

Around 3.4MW of solar was installed in the residential 0 – 4kW band last month, with a further 800kW installed in the 4 – 10kW band. This was further complemented by 1.4MW of C&I-sized solar installed within the 10 – 50kW bracket, BEIS has claimed. 

While slightly more prolific than April, which saw just 3.6MW of solar across the three deployment bands installed, the figures are unlikely to offer much solace to an industry that also faces a number of regulatory hurdles, including the continued wait for the Smart Export Guarantee to come into effect and the looming hike in VAT.

But commenting on the statistics, Solar Trade Association chief executive Chris Hewett said they do not add up to anecdotal evidence provided by its members. 

“We are concerned that BEIS deployment data has become meaningless, as statistics on small-scale systems are collected via the MCS registry where the system is accredited by the MCS. Many commercial systems will not be installed with MCS accreditation, and will also not be captured by the Renewable Energy Planning Database,” he said.

The industry is also now in a period where it is not necessary to register installations with the MCS or be a member of the body to complete an installation, with the Smart Export Guarantee not coming into effect until 1 January 2020. 

While it is not expected that any great quantity of solar is being installed outside of the MCS envelope, it still indicates the potential for BEIS’ installation figures to undervalue what is actually happening. 

Hewett added that the recent Energy Data Task Force recommended an improved system be put into place to improve visibility over the sector’s activity, indicating that until then, “BEIS figures have to be taken with a pinch of salt”. 

“On HMRC’s proposed changes to how VAT is applied to solar, it is important to remember that most standard standalone systems will be unaffected. However, more premium options, combined solar and storage systems, and collective purchase schemes will likely become costlier. We are undertaking serious lobbying efforts to have battery storage added to the Energy Saving Materials list to mitigate the impact on this nascent market,” Hewett said.