May 16th, 2019 by Joshua S Hill
The UK Solar Trade Association announced twice this week that the country’s solar fleet broke the peak generation record set originally two years ago, highlighting the need for solar to be allowed to participate on a level playing field in the country’s energy mix.
According to the Solar Trade Association (STA), the UK’s solar fleet broke its peak output record of 9.38 GW (gigawatts) — set originally back in May of 2017 — around noon on May 13, when it hit 9.47 GW. This was followed a day later by another announcement of another record, set almost exactly a day later when peak solar output reached 9.55 GW at around 12:30 pm.
“It is impossible to argue with the numbers,” crowed STA Director of Advocacy and New Markets Léonie Greene. “The bright clear skies combined with mild temperatures means solar has consistently met big portions of electricity demand throughout recent days.
“Days like these show that the technology can deliver clean, affordable power in abundance. We now need Government to provide a level playing field with other technologies and allow solar to thrive without public support. Currently solar in the UK faces a plethora of barriers which have dramatically slowed deployment.
“The sobering reports out recently from the International Energy Agency and the International Monetary Fund show fossil fuels subsidies are rising globally as renewables investment stagnates. Every country now needs to buck that trend and particularly the UK given we still lag behind the EU average for renewable energy.”
Currently, solar in the UK only provides around 4% of the electricity, but that’s not for lack of popularity or trying. The latest Public Attitudes Tracker conducted by the Department Of Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS) showed that solar was the country’s most popular source of electricity for 89% of the country’s population — though it has remained in the 80% range for a while now. With solar installed on over 975,000 homes, businesses, and communities in the UK, and with over 80% of community energy schemes featuring solar, one would assume solar could provide more electricity for the country.
However, as the STA highlights, significant roadblocks prevent this, including numerous inadequacies caused by the UK Government. A number of “challenging policy and regulatory issues” face solar in the UK — including possible changes to the country’s already reduced-rate value added tax (VAT) as applied to solar as an energy saving technology and a lack of “clear and fair remuneration” for small-scale solar being exported into the grid.
Additionally, solar is excluded from participation in the Government’s support scheme for new renewable energy projects, its Contracts for Difference (CfD) tender process, which allows all technologies except solar and onshore wind to compete for capacity.
If the UK is to meet the growing gap between electricity production and demand, the Government will need to make swift and far-reaching changes to how it views not only solar, but onshore wind as well.