Romag, like the majority of the UK solar market, has had an interesting year. The speed and severity of the feed-in tariff cuts has seen the domestic market stutter and caught the company somewhat off-guard. However, despite market externalities Romag has had a successful year, from iconic installations to innovative technological developments. 

I managed to get some to time to sit down with the Durham-based solar PV manufacturer’s Managing Director, Phil Murray, in order to quiz him about the state of solar in the UK and Romag’s plans for the future. 

First of all, I asked Phil about the health of the UK market after the changing policy landscape over the last year. The Managing Director has taken a pragmatic approach to Government’s handling of the feed-in tariff scheme, stating: “I think Government struggled to come to terms with just how rapid the industry was able to cut its costs.”

He continued: “Whilst I think the FiT cuts were necessary, they were too fast and too deep. I will say that Government has given the industry the certainty and platform it needs to go on and achieve. Other countries are now looking in at our scheme and commenting on the certainty that UK businesses are able to enjoy when planning for the future.”

Regarding the current domestic market, Phil thinks that the low level of deployment right now is just a blip, stating: “I believe that the domestic market will remain sluggish for the next three to six months but I expect installation rates to pick back up in the new year.” Phil pointed to the inevitable rise of energy bills and talked about the recent ING Direct poll which crowned solar PV as the most desirable household extra. He added: “Energy rates are only going one way and the British public has recognised the potential of solar PV.”

Phil is clearly passionate about the success of the solar industry and the role that his company can play in it. On show at Birmingham are a number of new developments, including an innovative new PV module that incorporates solar thermal technology (more on that later). However, Building-Integrated Photovoltaics (BIPV) solutions are clearly where Phil sees the most potential for Romag’s growth. 

He explained: “With installation rates down, installers are looking for points of differentiation. As solar PV has become more affordable, consumers are seriously looking at the aesthetics of installs.” 

It’s no wonder too, not only are us Brits obsessed with owning property, we’re also extremely house-proud. BIPV offers seamless integration and aesthetics that even the biggest PV supporters cannot deny is more appealing than on-roof systems. The price premium that BIPV has traditionally commanded has also closed and, combined with the dynamic cost reduction in component and installation costs, BIPV is capable of coming out at compelling prices. 

For many in the UK market, BIPV is still a mystery. Romag hopes that, with a little training from themselves, installers will begin to recognise the key opportunity that selling BIPV provides in the current climate – differentiation. As the market contracts, more installers are fighting over fewer jobs. Romag hopes that by offering a bespoke BIPV installation, installers will be able to stand-out from the crowd and enjoy more success. 

Romag is demonstrating its range of BIPV products at booth B42 at this year’s Solar Power UK 2012 event.