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UK Solar PV Strategy – Roadmap to a Brighter Future

Solar panels in a field Print publication

17/10/2013

Introduction

Solar photovoltaic (PV) is one of the eight key renewable energy technologies put forward by the Government as part of the solution to create a clean, balanced UK energy mix.  Solar projects can be developed and installed very quickly, and the fuel (solar radiation) is free.  Recently, solar received the highest public approval rating of all renewable energy technologies at 85 per cent.  The Government wants to make sure that its policies support the appropriate future deployment in a sustainable, cost-effective way.

Solar PV currently accounts for 12 per cent of renewable electricity capacity in the UK, and 2.9 per cent of renewable electricity generation.  The UK has deployed almost 2.5GW of solar and installed solar PV on nearly half a million homes as well as thousands of businesses and community sites.  The Department of Energy and Climate Change (DECC) central forecast estimates that the UK is likely to reach 10GW by 2020.  Greg Barker (the Minister for Energy and Climate Change) has restated his personal ambition for the deployment of 20GW within the next decade, and National Grid recently concluded that the current network could support 10GW of solar PV capacity without the need for significant change to the way that the grid is managed.

A framework of policies is already in place to drive investment in solar PV in the UK at a wide range of sizes, and in a wide range of locations, and the Government has increased its strategic focus on the solar PV industry as deployment has progressed.  Given the increasing deployment of solar in the UK, the Government feels that the time is right for it to set out its vision of the strategic direction for solar PV in the UK.

Strategic Roadmap

DECC published its: “UK Solar PV Strategy Part 1: Roadmap to a Brighter Future” (the Roadmap) on 8 October 2013.  This Roadmap details the Government’s vision of the strategic direction for solar PV in the UK and sets out four guiding principles, which form the basis of that strategy.  These principles are that support for solar PV should:

  • allow cost-effective projects to proceed and make a cost-effective contribution to UK carbon emission objectives in the context of overall energy goals – ensuring that solar PV has a role alongside other energy generation technologies in delivering carbon reductions, energy security and affordability for consumers
  • deliver genuine carbon reductions that help meet the UK’s target of 15 per cent renewable energy from final consumption by 2020 and in supporting the decarbonisation of our economy in the longer term – ensuring that all the carbon impacts of solar PV deployment are fully understood
  • ensure proposals are appropriately sited, give proper weight to environmental considerations such as landscape and visual impact, heritage and local amenity, and provide opportunities for local communities to influence decisions that affect them
  • assess and respond to the impacts of deployment on: grid systems balancing; grid connectivity; and financial incentives – ensuring that the Government addresses the challenges of deploying high volumes of solar PV.

The Roadmap identifies what has been done to date and where further work is needed.

Next steps

The Roadmap details a number of next steps against each of the four principles mentioned above.

In addition, the Government recognises the importance of setting future policy direction and so the Roadmap forms the first element of a two-part strategy process.  The second part will be a full strategy document, to be published in spring 2014, further exploring the actions that will have to be taken by Government and the solar sector to maximise the sustainable, affordable deployment of solar PV in the UK.

As part of that strategy document, DECC will report on the outputs of the work set out in this document, including the following key aspects:

  • DECC will complete further analysis of the levels of cost reduction required to deliver different levels of solar PV deployment over the next decade, and assess whether these are feasible given evidence on technology learning rates and likely sources of cost reduction in the solar sector.  This analysis will be done in light of the on-going European Commission anti-dumping case against imported Chinese panels
  • DECC will continue to work, through the Solar PV Strategy Group and in collaboration with the National Solar Centre and trade associations, to determine reliable methodologies to access data on jobs and investment in the UK solar PV sector
  • DECC will consider the distribution of potentially suitable deployment sites across domestic, commercial and industrial roofs and large-scale ground mounted sites
  • DECC will undertake a detailed analysis of current findings to help shape solar PV policy in order for it to deliver genuine carbon reductions that help meet the UK’s target of 15 per cent renewable energy from final consumption by 2020
  • DECC and partners will work to explore measures and technological advances to manage grid systems balancing with increasing levels of solar PV.

Further information

A full copy of the Roadmap can be found here.

For more information on how Walker Morris can help you in relation to solar PV projects, or renewable energy more generally, please contact one of the team members listed below or visit our website.