UK tops 1 GW solar installations for first half 2014

Solar PV deployment data published by the U.K.’s Department of Energy and Climate Change (DECC) has revealed that the country added 1,137 MW of PV capacity in the first half of 2014, more than any other country in Europe, including Germany.
The provisional statistics are based on site commissioning data and could rise, the DECC said, with June and May’s figures likely to be bolstered. As it stands, the figure is a notable increase on the 728 MW of PV capacity added in the first half of 2013, and as the rush to develop systems ahead of next April’s withdrawal of the Renewable Obligations certificate (ROC) gathers pace, many in the industry expect second half installation figures to outstrip first half figures.
The U.K.’s feed-in tariff (FIT) remains the biggest driver of solar deployment in the country, however, with more than 2 GW of the combined 3,926 MW of cumulative PV capacity installed via the FIT. The first quarter of 2014 saw capacity commissioned under the FIT grow by 1.6%, yet ROC-driven installations are catching up quick, growing 2.5% in the first quarter and now accounting for 483 MW of total PV capacity installed.
At the end of June, the U.K. had 572,102 PV systems in operation, according to the DECC, and thus is on course to achieve its goal of 15% solar energy penetration in the power mix by 2020. By the end of the decade, the DECC hopes that 22 GW of PV capacity will have been installed – an ambitious target potentially made more unrealistic following its removal of the ROC for large-scale solar plants in favor of the less profitable Contracts for Difference (CfD) scheme.
The DECC also announced this week a proposal to exempt the country’s so-called Energy Intensive Industries (EII) from having to participate in a proportion of the CfD scheme, claiming that forcing these companies to pay a higher electricity rate (designed to indirectly fund the development of renewable energy schemes) could put them at a competitive disadvantage with companies in other countries. The DECC has opened a public consultation on the potentially controversial proposal which, if passed, could undermine the very fabric of the CfD scheme, which is intended to make non-environmentally friendly industries offer some financial support for renewable schemes.