The feed-in tariff: one year on

So here we are, one year after the implementation of the UK feed-in tariff, and boy what a year it has been. After implementing a generous feed-in tariff on April 1, 2010, Government has made several hasty decisions that have changed the market considerably during the last 12 months. Industry has now reached a point where it will either fight onwards, or pull away. For now, let’s see how the feed-in tariff held up in its first year in the UK.

Since the introduction of the feed-in tariff -- which pays out a certain sum per kilowatt hour, based on the size of the installation -- Solar Power Portal has been keeping track of how well the tariff is doing. The original rates, which can be seen in the chart below, brought about: 0.982MW (408) from April – May, 2.465MW (1009) from May – June, 3.574MW (1426) from June – July, 4.566MW (1753) from July – August, 8.971MW (3735) from August – September, 6.438MW (2486) from September – October, 6.759MW (2440) from October – November and 6.560MW (2377) from November – December.
 

Energy Source

Scale

Feed-in tariff (pence/kWh)

Duration (years)

Solar PV

≤4 kW new

36.1

25

Solar PV

≤4 kW retrofit

41.3

25

Solar PV

>4-10kW

36.1

25

Solar PV

>10 - 100kW

31.4

25

Solar PV

>100kW - 5MW

29.3

25

Solar PV

Standalone

29.3

25


As can be seen in the figures above, these rates spurred on a huge amount of growth in the first couple of months, with a total of 45.011MW or 17,244 installations reached by the end of December 2010. This figure includes historic installations entitled to the reduced-rate 9p tariff only, which were transferred from the former Renewables Obligation, as well as full FiT-eligible installations connected between July 15, 2009 and the start of the scheme, but which appear on the Register as post-April 1. (These installations amount to approximately 11MW; however, it is difficult to be precise in this regard as Ofgem does not outline the separate categories.) Omitting these transferred installations, the total at the end of 2010 amounted to approximately 34.011MW.

This was pretty good going, and most of us went off on our Christmas holiday safe in the knowledge that the fledgling solar industry had finally taken flight, and was doing well.

Yet as the end of January came round, everything started to look a little bleak.

By February 7, the UK Government had announced its intention to launch a feed-in tariff review. This was to work in two stages, the first of which would be fast-tracked for what Government defined ‘large-scale’ (but what we call anything over 50kW), and the second a Comprehensive Review, which would look at all levels of installation.

By March 18, the fast-track review was revealed. The Minister of State, Greg Barker said the fast-track aspect of the review would show “fast-track consideration of large-scale solar projects (over 50kW) with a view to making any resulting changes to tariffs as soon as practical, subject to consultation and Parliamentary scrutiny as required by the Energy Act 2008.”

The document published outlined the following proposed new tariffs:
•    >50kW - ≤150kW: 19p/kWh
•    >150kW - ≤250kW: 15p/kWh
•    >250kW - ≤5MW: 8.5p/kWh

If the proposals go through, they will take effect from August 1, 2011. The industry has been given until May 6 to respond.

Although the reviews have caused a lot of uncertainty for the UK’s solar industry, they haven’t stopped figures reaching 77.864MW or 28,602 installations during the 12-month period to date. A striking 73.189MW of these were residential, a sector which is expected to continue on an upward trend considering the Government’s clear support.

The year’s figures, when split by country within the UK, show that the majority of the PV installations were in England (71.205MW), while Wales installed 3.411MW, and Scotland 2.506MW. Although these countries are doing their bit, it is expected that England will remain on top when it comes to solar power installations, as the south of the country has the highest solar irradiation levels.

As we move into this financial year, despite the looming review deadlines, the UK feed-in tariff (FiT) for solar installations will be adjusted slightly in industry’s favour to account for updated inflation figures. The new tariff will come into effect today, April 1, and will be valid until March 31, 2012.
 

Scale

Previous feed-in tariff (pence/kWh)

Updated feed-in tariff (pence/kWh)

≤4 kW new

36.1

37.8

≤4 kW retrofit

41.3

43.3

>4-10kW

36.1

37.8

>10 - 100kW

31.4

32.9

>100kW - 5MW

29.3

30.7

Standalone

29.3

30.7

 

Installations are now expected to spike slightly while the tariffs levels are high, as industry will now be keeping a close eye out for more cuts to come during the comprehensive review. After that, it’s uncertain how the figures will be affected, as the feed-in tariff reviews, both fast-track and comprehensive, are expected to have a significant impact.

April 1, 2010 – April 1, 2011

UK
Overall: 77.864MW (28,602)
Domestic: 73.189MW (28032)
Commercial: 2.280MW (254)
Industrial: 0.321MW (31)
Community: 2.075MW (301)

 England
Overall: 71.205MW (26,486)
Domestic: 67.436MW (25,988)
Commercial: 1.655MW (212)
Industrial: 0.282MW (26)
Community: 1.832 (260)

Scotland
Overall: 2.506MW (822)
Domestic: 2.282MW (796)
Commercial: 0.158MW (15)
Industrial: 0.002MW (1)
Community: 0.064MW (10)

Wales
Overall: 3.411MW (1,165)
Domestic: 3.151MW (1,123)
Commercial: 0.127MW (20)
Industrial: 0.037MW (4)
Community: 0.095MW (18)