UK hits 2 GW of PV


The U.K. has become one of the top-10 countries in terms of photovoltaic demand for both 2011 and 2012, with the cumulative total now reaching 2 GW. The figures, from NPD Solarbuzz, show that demand for photovoltaics in the country has exceeded expectations, reaching 965 MW in 2012.

In a statement announcing the result, NPD Solarbuzz’s Finlay Colville said that the U.K. can now be considered a market of note by the industry. "With demand trending at the GW level and cumulative PV installs passing the 2 GW mark, the U.K. can now officially be prioritized as a GW-size market by the global PV supply chain," said Colville.

Driving the strong result has been the certainty that has been restored to the market through the predictable digressive FIT regime (DFIT) and the Renewable Obligation Certificate (ROC) requirement. 2011 was a tumultuous year for the photovoltaic industry with sudden changes to FITs and legal challenges as to their validity. Legal action is currently underway regarding the cuts, led by a group of "solar and construction companies" seeking £140 million (US$222 million) in damages from the government.

Declining photovoltaic system prices are also behind the steady growth pattern observed now. Both the residential market and ground-mounted systems are seeing growth, reports NPD Solarbuzz.

In a speech to launch six "Solar Roadshows" across the U.K., Climate Change Minister Greg Barker pointed to the achievement and the potential of photovoltaics in the country. "We stand on the threshold of 2 GW. So let us unite together behind solar coming of age and the benefits it brings to economy, our communities and our renewable energy mix." Barker continued, "but this is just the beginning. By the 2020s I want and believe solar to provide up to 20 GW of our energy needs."

NPD Solarbuzz’s Colville pointed to the stable support regime as being a positive for photovoltaics in the U.K., but added that installation levels would need to increase if 20 GW is to be achieved. Current installation levels are running at around 5 to 6 MW per week and would have to increase to 20 MW to reach the 20 GW goal.

"Support from the U.K. government for PV has improved considerably within the past 12 months and photovoltaics is now officially included in the UK’s long-term renewables mix," added Colville. "However, there is currently scope for only 10 GW of extra capacity to be fed into the U.K. grid. Meeting the 20 GW target for PV will require additional investments to upgrade the aging UK infrastructure." Colville added that rising household electricity prices should drive continued installation growth.

Current internal rates of return for photovoltaic installations in the U.K. are said to be 10% under the RFIT to 2015 and under the ROCs to 2017.

The findings are reported in the NPD Solarbuzz’s Marketbuzz 2013 report.