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Solar success, stats and struggles

  • Publish Date: Posted almost 5 years ago
  • Author:by Richard Hawkesford

​When we think about solar, we often assume that glaring hot sun and soaring temperatures must be great for the industry. However, NESF have reported* that last year’s high temperatures had the reverse effect on their energy production.

Whilst profits increased (9.1% over forecast) the 2018 heatwave saw not only profits but mercury soaring above the ideal operating temperature of solar panels (around 25 degrees Celsius). This resulted in the fund’s portfolio losing around 1.8% of total energy production (equivalent to c12.5GWh of power). Alongside this, some of their sites exceeded their export capacity limits due to excessive generation and therefore outputs had to be restricted.

With the better weather the UK has been experiencing, UK solar generation has seen several records being broken in terms of energy generation. In May 2019, it reached 9.47GW to beat the previous record of 9.38GW from May 2017 and it was confirmed** that solar was providing 26% of the country’s power output at this time. A great achievement for the industry and all who work within it.

At the same time, the UK was revelling in the fact that we had a whole week without coal generation (significantly aided by the wind industry) for the first time since the industrial revolution. Whilst this is obviously cause for celebration, caution should be exercised before patting ourselves too hard on the back. Inevitably solar can deliver when the sun is shining, and the temperatures are rising (not too high though!) however the Solar Trade Association have pointed out that the solar industry still needs support to continue growth.

The Solar Trade Association go on to say that fossil fuel subsidies are rising globally whilst renewables investment has stagnated, with the UKs current solar PV generation capacity standing at c13GW – which isn’t materially different to what it was at the closure of the Renewables Obligation in 2017.

But are the statistics telling the real story? Some in the solar industry have argued that the official government deployment statistics have become “meaningless”*** and they’re still facing several regulatory hurdles (e.g. still waiting for the Smart Export Guarantee and the forthcoming VAT rise).

The Solar Trade Association states the BEIS data doesn’t tally with the anecdotal evidence provided by its members due to statistics on small-scale systems being collected by the MCS registry whilst many commercial systems are not being installed with MCS accreditation (and therefore not being captured by the Renewable Energy Planning Database). Currently it isn’t necessary to register installations with the MCS or be a member of the body to complete an installation (with the Smart Export Guarantee not coming into effect till 1.1.20) so likely the BEIS’ installation figures undervalue the real story even further.

With proposed changes to VAT and how it is applied to solar, it is likely the more premium combined solar and storage systems, alongside collective purchase schemes are only going to become more expensive – which isn’t great news for a market with such potential.

It will be interesting to see how the rise in temperatures (arguably due to climate change), alongside the push for a greener/cleaner society vs potential price hikes and stagnant investment will affect the sector and the solar jobs market as a result. Hopefully lobbying will result in more action, and investment into renewables, and we’ll see further success in profits and solar energy generation moving forward.

If you’re a client who needs to find the best talent in the solar market, or a professional looking for their next role, get in touch to see how we can help. Call Richard Hawkesford on +44(0)1202 888986 ext. 294 or