Political and market uncertainty leading to ‘void’ come March 2019

Brexit and the possibility of a general election leading to policy change, combined with the potential closure of the export tariff as the feed-in tariff regime comes to an end, will result in a “void” of uncertainty come March 2019.

That is the view of Michael Lillis, sales manager at Westech Solar, which will showcase its range of smart and premium triple black PV modules at next month’s Solar & Storage Live in Birmingham.

“The UK market is losing its subsidy soon and it’s a great unknown. We have Brexit coming and a lot of uncertainty, even people talking about general elections, we just don't know what's going to happen policy wise.

“It's a bit of a void at the moment in terms of what's going to happen. If nothing comes out, which the signs are that not much is going to happen - maybe because they are too busy getting ready for Brexit - come March we're looking at not a lot happening for about six months,” he said.

Looking back at the history of the feed-in tariff, where each reduction in available payments led to a period of lower deployment activity Lillis added that with the potential removal of the export tariff, there is little reason to expect a different outcome.

While this will promote self-consumption models, and therefore energy storage solutions, the effect on installers would be that they are forced to adopt more expensive and complex products to sell.

Lillis continued: “We're moving into an area where people are going to require storage in order to maximise their investment and not give away energy for free. From an installer point of view, it pushes them into pushing a more expensive, complicated product. It takes away the grid tie which was just very easy, something they were already geared up to sell, and customers tend to understand it quite well.

“Long term it’s probably not a bad thing as such but it's just taking something away from their sales and pushing costs up

“Solar you can still sell it on its own merits but it's harder. For bigger customers who are doing commercial or high energy users who have self-consumption, that market is still going to maintain. But that’s bigger companies, more specialised and it’s the smaller installers that will suffer I think and struggle, in residential especially.”

However, this uncertainty leaves the door open for a drastic change in the market stemming from the political sphere in light of Jeremy Corbyn’s latest pledge to triple solar capacity under a Labour government.

“It could turn on its head…if we had a general election. Labour want to run a green economy and you can have your own opinions on them as the government, good or bad, but they're looking to start something,” Lillis said.

“That's something that could change our industry dramatically again, so we could swing from one end to the other; from having absolutely nothing or we could be in a great position in a year from now,” Lillis said.

However he went on to say that as a manufacturer, “it’s not good” to focus on just the UK in light of this uncertainty. Westech Solar is therefore looking to Ireland to take advantage of the growing market there following the launch of a pilot micro-generation support scheme.

The company is also finding a market in Scandinavian countries where the company’s Tigo range of smart PV modules are proving a success.

This range will be on show between 16-18 October at Birmingham’s NEC, alongside a prototype guard for PV modules to protect against bird nesting with an aesthetically pleasing alternative to roof integrated panels.

Registration to attend the three day exhibition and conference is still open and can be found here.