Deployment alarm sounded for solar

The Solar Trade Association (STA) has published a summary of current solar deployment showing that this year, solar retrofits on existing homes amounted to the equivalent of one roof per MP constituency per week, and the equivalent nationally of only one large factory roof per month.

The end of March heralded the final closure of the Renewables Obligation; the key support scheme for solar farms, as well as the start of shock business rate rises for rooftop solar. Solar, the UK’s cheapest and most popular source of clean power, also remains excluded from renewables auctions, where included technologies are now bidding for £290m of new support.

Final official data for the first quarter of 2017 was released on April 7 confirming the low deployment of rooftop solar, just over a year since the start of the new FIT scheme.

STA CEO Paul Barwell said: “With policy crunch points clearly hurting solar this spring we urge Government to act now to stabilise the industry. Solar power led global renewables growth last year and it has an extraordinary future everywhere. But solar is being needlessly impeded in the UK by shock taxes, red tape and by a serious failure in the only remaining supportive policy. The UK solar industry risks being left behind while other major economies strengthen their stake in a booming world market.”

“We repeat our call on the Government to table the simple secondary legislation needed to stop the extreme and anti-competitive business rate hike for rooftop solar.”

Today’s data reveals that domestic rooftop solar deployment has fallen by 75% in Q1 2017 for domestic schemes compared to average deployment since the FIT began. This translates to a fall from approximately 2,700 installations per week to around 650.

Deployment of larger (50kW+) rooftops in Q1 2017 has fallen by 65% compared to average deployment in 2016. The data translates to only approximately one large factory roof installation, like a car factory, per month.

The STA is asking for red tape removal and more accurate official data to help boost the domestic sector. For commercial rooftops, as well as fair business rates, the STA is urging Enhanced Capital Allowances and PPA exemption from the Climate Change Levy. It says the FIT policy for commercial rooftops also needs to be addressed to smooth the transition to a subsidy-free framework. For utility-scale solar, the STA is asking Government to level the playing field and allow competitive access for solar to CfD auctions.

The STA is now concerned about skills & efficiency retention in the sector, given employment had already fallen by an estimated one-third last summer. Solar deployment has fallen by 70% since last summer.

STA CEO Paul Barwell added: “The solar industry has achieved such unprecedented cost reductions and in record time, that, despite clear difficulties, we are not asking for new rooftop subsidies. What we are asking for, and urgently, is fair tax treatment, fixes to a failing policy, less red tape & just a level playing field.”