Solar PV to be included in UK clean energy roadmap from this year

Solar PV Farm in Cornwall

by James Martin II on October 4, 2012

For the first time, solar photovoltaics (PV) will be included in this year’s “renewable energy roadmap” for the UK, according to Bloomberg New Energy Finance (BNEF). Department of Energy and Climate Change (DECC) feed-in tariffs review chief Alisdair Grangier said the government will also release details about its strategy for solar PV in the coming months.

The news is noteworthy because to date the concept of renewable energy in the UK has been primarily associated with wind and hydro power. Solar power is a fairly new entrant on the scene, and at first the prospect of the UK having abundant solar resources may come across as counterintuitive in light of the less-than-sunny weather patterns here. However, the increasing cost-competitiveness of solar PV as a means of electricity generation changes the value proposition for the technology, and the government has acknowledged this in including it in the newest version of the roadmap.

Rapid growth in installed solar capacity is a global phenomenon in recent years, led by the EU–with Germany at its head. Many governments and even solar industry veterans have been surprised by the speed with which solar PV has taken off. In response to this, governments are beginning to acknowledge solar PV as a force in power generation where it would have previously been dismissed. (Microsoft founder Bill Gates once famously and denigratingly described the technology as ‘cute‘.)

In the 2011 clean energy roadmap, DECC noted that

solar PV could potentially have a role to play in larger-scale UK renewables deployment in the future, though this will depend on a number of factors. One of these is that sufficient cost reductions will need to be achieved so that the viability of projects is not dependent on significant subsidy. Work for industry suggests that this point may be reached during this decade.

The sentiment that the cost of solar will continue to fall is not limited to DECC; it has been corroborated by data from the UK’s own JRC, as well as consultancy firm McKinsley. Mainly on the back of the UK’s solar feed-in tariff, but also thanks to rising electricity prices, solar power systems have become increasingly attractive as an investment for homes and businesses across the UK. The inclusion of solar PV in the clean energy roadmap will hopefully mean more even-handed government support for the technology into the future until it reaches price parity with conventional power generation technologies on its own 2 feet.

© 2012 Solar Selections Ltd

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