Following the purchase of PV distributor Metgen this week, Solar Power Portal caught up with Bay Wa r.e.’s Ian Draisey to talk about the future of UK solar.

How do you feel about the current state of the domestic installer market?

I’m relatively confident, and have converted that confidence into modest increases in growth for 2015 in my forecasts for the year. I’m always surprised at just how reactive the market is to the smallest of reductions in the feed-in tariff (FiT) rate. This is indicative perhaps of how solar is sold, and that the reductions have become as much a cultural catalyst to demand that the ROI figures could only aspire to be. I am an advocate of subsidy free solar, and can’t wait until we are genuinely there. I’m very interested to see whether the onset of more frequent reductions afflict the domestic sector with the malaise we experienced in April 2014, or whether they underpin the message that now is always the best time to buy solar.

Who is better equipped to do well in the commercial rooftop sector, an ambitious residential installer or a downsizing utility-scale player spat out by the RO?

We have witnessed considerable success from both. Our unique selling point is the ability to support those installers who not only have the ambition and technical background to ‘step up’ to this emerging market, but also a coherent and marketing-based sales plan to identify the customers. The sums stack up, it’s also a case of coping with the longer lead times, cash flow requirements and having the ability to close the deal. I don’t want to over simplify this market however, as the percentage of installers successfully bridging the domestic to commercial divide on a regular basis is relatively limited. On the other hand, the utility-scale players have impressed me by the speed at which their businesses evolved to the utility opportunity. They will be just as quick to react to the FiT and CfD opportunities in PV. We are already seeing sophisticated models rolling out both regionally, and nationally. I only expect to see this accelerate. I have always felt though that the aces remain in the hands of those that have the key knowledge and experience – and this comes down to the actual installation of the project.

Will this long-teased boom in commercial rooftop materialise?

Yes. We are seeing it now in terms of sales, forecasts, pipelines and increasingly orders. My fear is how long that boom will last! I anticipate, as do many others that the levels of deployment will decimate the FiT in a very short space of time – killing the confidence that is currently growing. We will then spend the next three years recovering from the perception that solar doesn’t work in the commercial arena, just as we have done in the domestic market.

What advice would you give solar installers for 2015?

I rarely give advice. For the reason that those installers who have weathered the storm that was 2011 through to 2015 don’t need to listen to anyone! They will have developed robust businesses suited to their locality, regional dynamics, perhaps a product specialism, or an effective sales pitch. What I generally advocate however is that in the long term quality always wins out and solar PV is going to be no exception to this.

What’s on your policy wishlist when the new government takes power?

If it’s the Green Party then we’ve nothing to worry about….more realistically, I’d like the FiT left alone, and hardly think it is going to be on the top of the pile in terms of policy pledges that need to be followed through. I’d like to see more tax-based incentives for solar, rather than FiT for the larger commercial projects. This would take the project lead time horizon out of the equation when developing proposals. If the FiT drops 7%, 14% or even higher by percentages, those investing in PV will potentially turn their backs, and throw proposals in the ‘too risky’ bin. The sooner we can make investing in PV as simple and conventional as investing in commercial property the better – hence I am happy to advocate the STA’s Solar Independence Campaign.