The UK solar industry hit another monthly low in October with newly-released statistics revealing that just 2,406 MCS-accredited systems were installed last month.
The figures, released by the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy this morning, are lower than the previous monthly figure of 2,782 recorded in August, and will serve to add further pressure onto the government over the revised feed-in tariff scheme.
October’s MCS-accredited solar deployment figure is largely made up of residential installations in the 0-4kW category. But with just 2,170 of those completed in October, it is a fraction of the amount of solar installed the year before and indicative of the problems faced by installers competing for work.
October 2016 deployment in the 0-4kW category is some 87% lower than what was recorded in the same month in 2015, when nearly 16,000 systems were installed in the pre-consultation closure rush, and 83% lower than the 12,820 systems fitted in October 2014.
BEIS had yet to respond to requests for comment on the figures, however ministers at both BEIS and the now-defunct Department of Energy and Climate Change have previously iterated that the performance of the revised feed-in tariff scheme was being kept under review.
Last month energy minister Jesse Norman responded to a written question by Labour MP Ben Bradshaw, stating that the department had noted “the efforts the solar industry is making to adapt to the revised scheme”.
This followed a previous answer in September in which Norman insisted that BEIS was keeping the scheme’s performance “under review”.
In June former energy minister Andrea Leadsom said DECC had been “encouraged” by the solar industry’s response to the feed-in tariff review, adding that the department expected deployment to increase once “the industry acclimatises to the new system”.
In fact deployment – particularly in the residential sector, where the bulk of installers find work – has fallen further from historic levels.
A key tenet of last year’s feed-in tariff consultation response was a “budgetary reconciliation” clause, which would allow the government to “bring together any underspend” and redistribute it to address budgetary pressures. While this was primarily designed to “top up” deployment caps if necessary, the clause also allows for the provision of “additional support to meet our earlier deployment projections”.
In its response the government considered that these reconciliations would be biannual, but “could be more or less frequent depending on deployment”.
Feed-in tariff reforms were one of eight policy asks from the Solar Trade Association ahead of the chancellor’s Autumn Statement yesterday, however the chancellor made no reference to specific subsidies in his statement at all, aside from revealing that the future of the LCF would be confirmed at Budget 2017.
A spokesman for the STA said that the continued low deployment reinforced its calls for adjustments to the FiT scheme, adding that deployment levels were “at odds” with international trends.
“Current caps on deployment are too low, not allowing a meaningful commercial roof market to develop. Combined with the planned hike in business rates for companies that generate their own solar power for onsite consumption, the most efficient use of solar, the commercial rooftop sector risks being made uneconomical,” the spokesman added.