Is the UK solar industry headed for disaster?

Over the past few days I’ve been keeping a beady eye on the Ofgem PV installation figures as they crept ever closer to the 200MW mark for this FiT year. This afternoon I hit the refresh button and lo, we’ve surpassed it. Logging a total of 200.441MW, the FiT register is showing results that even the most optimistic of us never thought were possible.

Worryingly, the Department of Energy and Climate Change (DECC) was expecting figures nowhere near that amount – and this FiT year is not even six months in. As Solar Media’s Founder and CEO David Owen outlined in his blog yesterday, DECC was expecting just 86MW of new PV capacity by March 31, 2012. If we also take into account that Ofgem figures are commonly considered to be three months behind the times (with approximately 70MW of large-scale solar to add to the existing total), we are on track to run well into the 500s by the end of March next year.

It seems, unsurprisingly, that the Renewable Energy Association’s figures were far more on target – yet these were unfortunately ignored by DECC when they warned of the flood heading our way.

So, what does this mean as we move ahead?

With more than double the expected capacity already exceeded, knees are starting to knock in the UK solar industry as we head towards the Comprehensive Feed-in Tariff Review. The cuts imposed by the Fast Track Review earlier this year were extraordinarily damaging for the larger size of the industry (even though these installations have little, if anything, to do with the huge figures installed to date) so many are hoping DECC considers all aspects before deciding just how much to cut the FiT levels below 50kW.

However, although many are worried about the outcome of the upcoming review, perhaps the fact that the current FiT is so generous will work strongly in our favour. In fact, as our reader Liam Norman pointed out, a drop of 40% will extend a 4kW payback period to 10.5 years, which isn’t really that bad (considering the FiT is currently paid over 25 years).

Me? I just hope grid parity isn’t too far in the distance…