Industry reacts to Solar Strategy

Below is a roundup of all the latest industry reaction to the new Solar Strategy published today:

Jonny Williams, National Solar Centre:

It is welcoming to see a specific strategy for the solar industry and one that is even handed in its support for the industry at all scales.

While domestic installs and properly located solar farms continue, it is very encouraging to see Government support measures that open up the potential for large non domestic roofs, allowing the electricity generated to be used on site or supplied to the local network.

The figure of 250,000 hectares of available south facing commercial roof space represents a vast potential market but access to grid and other structural barriers must first be challenged if even a fraction of this is to be achieved.

Both the solar industry and DECC should be commended for working closely together over the last few months."

Richard Rushin, Trina Solar UK:

We welcome the continued UK government support of the solar PV industry across residential, commercial and large-scale sectors.

The Solar Strategy is encouraging for all involved in our growing renewables market.

We expect to see a sharp increase in commercial rooftop installations as a result and 2014 will be a dynamic year for solar PV in the UK.

20GW of responsibly deployed solar PV by 2020 is now looking very realistic and this in conjunction with other measures within the 'Energy Roadmap' will seriously help the UK achieve its CO2 reduction targets.

Reza Shaybani, chairman, BPVA:

Now that the government is supporting the industry extremely well, it is time for the industry to also play its part and look forward to the future. As the UK has always been highly regarded for its manufacturing past we want to bring back manufacturing which will help grow the local and national economy, in turn creating more jobs.

The BPVA is committed to the growth of the industry which will be achieved in not only deployment of solar PV but also in research and development, innovation, manufacturing, engineering and export opportunities.

Paul Barwell, chief executive, STA:

The Strategy is an excellent start. We are pleased to say we have already started work to target growth in the mid-scale market and there is huge interest amongst our membership. The Strategy makes clear DECC want this market to grow over the next few years, so it will be key to change the feed-in tariff reduction triggers and the upper tariff band to enable this. We can fix the barriers, but the policy framework must allow the growth we all want to see.

We also welcome recognition in the Strategy that large-scale solar farms can be done well. Solar farm developers are SMEs, diversifying ownership and competition in our consolidated electricity markets, so they have an important role to play. The responsible industry recognises that schemes must be done sensitively, must engage local communities, and must not displace agricultural production. Solar farms typically take up only 5% of the land they are on leaving exciting potential for boosting British biodiversity in a protected space.

Ray Noble, co-chair of the Solar Strategy:

The hard work has now been done in pulling together all of the facts, ensuring that all understand the issues, identifying barriers to future growth, and ensuring that the benefits of Solar are fully understood. The Solar Strategy document should provide the necessary comfort to all types of potential customers that Solar in the UK makes total sense. We still have work to do in developing solutions to some of the barriers but working with Government these will be sorted during 2014. My message to the Solar Industry is full speed ahead and the message to the Minister is that we will achieve your ambition of 20GW.

Karl Harder, co-founder and managing director, Abundance Generation:

The government's decision to think big on solar is not just right, but simply the only way. We fundamentally believe that the UK can be powered 100% by renewable energy by 2040. But to deliver the clean power at the speed we need, policy thinking must be joined up and amplify, not hinder, the demand for renewables in the UK. There is very real demand for positive investments in renewable energy, as people realise making a return doesn't mean compromising their children's future. Truly effective policy making amplifies this appetite. By encouraging public investment we can ensure that the benefits of the solar revolution are spread as widely as possible, in turn ensuring we maintain public support for an industry that represents a huge opportunity for clean growth for the UK. Having raised over £5 million from 1,100 individuals we've so far financed seven renewable projects across the country. Our aim is to raise £500 million by 2020, enabling potentially millions of individuals to invest in clean power. We know that public participation is the key to securing a sustainable future, and enabling that is at the core of our mission. It should be this government’s mission too.

Nick Boyle, CEO Lightsource Renewable Energy:

Lightsource is delighted that the government has signalled its commitment to the solar industry through the publication of a Solar Strategy and has publicised its intention to open up the solar market on commercial rooftops.

Andy Atkins, executive director, Friends of the Earth:

It's encouraging to see the Prime Minister's Conservative colleagues promoting a positive solar vision for the UK and as a solution to climate change, particularly when it comes just days after David Cameron took a swipe at onshore wind farms.

Clean, renewable power like solar is our future, and with Greg Barker rightly pointing out that it will soon be cheaper than gas, we need the whole of Government to move fast to ensure solar projects everywhere can rapidly take off.

Putting solar on the government estate is a good move, but we need to go further, allowing every community to benefit. As a first step Ministers must relax rules preventing schools borrowing money to install solar, potentially unlocking tens of millions of pounds in savings for schools nationwide.

Amy Cameron, Solar Schools manager, 10:10:

It’s great to see ministers recognising the positive impact that Solar Schools can have and encouraging others to join in. Around the UK parents, teachers and pupils are coming together to cut their carbon emissions, reduce electricity bills and unite communities though solar.

We need solar on many more schools but we can’t stop there. The solar strategy recognises that all kinds of public buildings, millions of homes and countless businesses could all benefit.

This strategy opens up the possibility of solar at a huge variety of scales from individual houses to massive factories and feels like a firm commitment by Government to a vital renewable energy technology. This sort of commitment has been in short supply recently, so it’s especially welcome.

Howard Johns, managing director, Southern Solar:

The launch of the solar strategy is a big step forward for solar in the UK – solar is finally recognised as a serious part of the energy mix which is a total transformation from where we were a few years ago.

Jan Sisson, managing director, juwi Renewable Energies:

I was pleased to see the publication of DECC’s Solar Strategy (part 2) earlier today, which from an industry perspective, contains pretty much all of the elements that we had expected. For the last 12 months or so, we have been working within the industry to build and increasingly close relationship with the DECC team, and I feel confident that the various joint taskforces mentioned throughout the document are having a real impact and addressing the right issues such as grid availability, land use for large-scale and non-financial barriers for rooftops. We were also pleased to see the continued ministerial ambition to see ‘20 GW of solar by early in the next decade’. However, this does still seem to substantially underplay the potential contribution or solar PV within the overall renewable energy mix when thinking about some of the large challenges faced by on-shore and off-shore wind for example.

Jerry Hamilton, director of renewables & energy solutions, Rexel:

The ability to generate energy where we need it and use it will play a key role in our energy future. The change in focus highlighted in today’s strategy announcement – moving the emphasis for growth away from large solar farms, towards domestic and commercial rooftop PV – is a crucial step in the right direction. The opportunities from solar as a cost-effective alternative to traditional sources of energy are huge, especially in industry and manufacturing, and it is encouraging to see this being acknowledged by the government.

The environmental and energy saving benefits of solar panels today coupled with the reduction in cost make this technology more accessible to consumers, businesses and the public sector alike. Over the last decade, the price of solar PV has come down significantly, contractors are better skilled and there are efficiencies being made at every step of the way. However, while we want to make solar panels more accessible to everyone, we need to make sure that the constant pressure for cutting costs does not compromise on quality. Balancing the cost of a system with the ability to generate a high KWh yield over time instead of cost verses a set KwP of a system will ensure the long-term sustainability and development of the market. Not all modules are the same.

It is incredibly encouraging to see a specific strategy for solar which will provide a nice boost of confidence for the industry. With more homeowners, schools and businesses installing PV on their roofs, we create ambassadors for more efficient and sustainable energy usage, ultimately helping our overall aim of reaching our carbon reduction targets in the UK.

Merlin Hyman, cheif executive, Regen SW:

The south west of England has led the way in deploying solar, so the ambition set out by DECC in the solar strategy for continued rapid growth is encouraging .

DECC is rightly focused on the huge opportunity for ‘mid-scale’ solar on top of factories, supermarkets, warehouses, car parks and other commercial and industrial buildings

However, the sector should note the conclusion that large scale solar is deploying above the rates modelled by DECC and the need to protect the Levy Control Framework, those familiar with the review of the FiT will see this as a pretty unambiguous signal of a review of tariff levels for large scale solar.

Juliet Davenport, founder and chief executive, Good Energy:

We welcome the government’s commitment to the expansion of solar detailed in today’s Solar Strategy.  Solar is a crucial part of the UK energy mix – it’s clean, low cost, easy to deploy and popular with the public. We share the vision of taking on the big suppliers with a more decentralised energy economy that creates the right environment for small energy companies to thrive.

Solar homes, along with appropriately sited large scale solar projects, offer the UK public and business sector a way of securing long term, fixed price power. For schools, solar is a great way of saving on energy costs and educating our children about the importance of producing our own energy. Solar helps the UK to achieve ambitious carbon reduction targets and builds energy security in uncertain times.

Good Energy is working closely with farmers and landowners to deliver large-scale solar projects to satisfy increasing demand. Solar farms can offer landowners the opportunity to diversify without having an adverse effect on wildlife and bio-diversity.

Robert Goss, managing director, Conergy UK:

Solar goes from strength to strength in Britain, helping to create jobs, expand domestic power generation and cut carbon emissions. Conergy has hired 50% more staff here since the summer and we will continue to invest in the UK as the market grows. There is huge pent-up demand for the owners of hundreds of thousands of acres of rooftops that currently go unused, who want to do something about rising energy bills. The government's support for them is long awaited and will help Britain become more self-sufficient in energy.

Ali Ross, resources director, Sundog Energy:

Despite the recent surge in solar PV in the UK there is massive potential for further growth, and it is very heartening that the government publically recognises this and is acting to overcome some of the barriers that have hindered realisation of this potential. Leading the way through investment in solar PV on government and other public sector buildings, and encouraging the business sector to do the same on large commercial roofs, can only help to rebuild investor and public confidence in the technology as a sound investment as well as a vital carbon reduction measure. And refocusing investment in PV on schools, thus raising awareness amongst current consumers as well as the next generation, is a most welcome commitment that is bound to speed the transition to a clean and renewable energy supply.

Steve Williams, managing director, Clean Solar Solutions:

The information gleaned from the Solar Strategy looks to be excellent news, not just for installers only, but for the many other related businesses that are thriving as a result of the UK solar industry. The solar industry as a whole has a very bright future as a result of the strong commitment from our chief decision-makers.

Ted Scheidegger, chairman, Engynious Group:

We welcome this initiative which facilitates distributed generation combined with local consumption. Having built a PV portfolio for Schools in the UK – which is pooled and monitored as one larger virtual power plant - we are inspired to further engage in the various sectors of this market. However, financing for rooftop projects currently remains a challenge. Our initial equity investment has enabled this “Crowd Energy” solution. This is a first step along the way. Let’s push for more and unlock the power of robust financing for the UK solar market.

One of Engynious’ suggestions to DECC is to allow for replacement of PV systems with assigned feed-in tariffs to a new location (with a new MPAN) under certain conditions (e.g. break of lease). This would massively increase the confidence of both investors and landlords in third-party financed rooftop solutions without any additional cost to the overall FiT scheme.

Susannah Wood, chief marketing officer, Solarcentury:

We’re encouraged that the government wants to unlock the mid-scale roof sector and we look forward to seeing the detail. However, we are disappointed at the lack of a new FIT band above 250kWp and that there is no degression review for larger on roof projects. We believe these are central to achieving the government’s ambition to really grow the mid-scale sector.

We also welcome the government’s recognition that large-scale solar, when approached responsibly, is a plus for the UK. Solar farms are the quickest and the lowest impact route to creating new electricity capacity online and at a stable price. They do not need to be a cause for concern when developed responsibly, as with all Solarcentury sites.

As part of being a responsible developer, Solarcentury ensures local communities have a say on the proposed development. It is this local level of engagement as well as rigorous site selection that has helped us to achieve a 100% success rate in planning for the solar parks we develop.”

Solar parks continue to receive positive public support, with research from the Solar Trade Association finding over 70% of respondents in favour of responsibly developed solar farms.

Solar Power Portal will be updating this story with more reaction as it comes in. Send your thoughts on the Solar Strategy to pbennett@solarpowerportal.co.uk