UK solar and renewable energy associations go separate ways

Britain’s Renewable Energy Association and Solar Trade Association are breaking up.

The organizations said on Monday that they would end their formal affiliation on January 1.

The associations became affiliated in March 2011, when the STA merged with the REA’s Solar Power Group and relaunched with representation of both the solar heating and solar power industries.

By again becoming independent next year, the associations will be able to focus on their core strengths, the organizations said in a joint statement.

"Solar power has come from nowhere at the start of this parliament to providing nearly 10% of all renewable power over the last quarter," said STA Chairman Jan Sisson. "As long as we can secure a more stable policy framework, subsidy-free solar is now on the horizon. At the same time the solar thermal sector now has the best policy framework ever under the RHI [Renewable Heat Incentive]."

Sisson added that the STA and REA have played key roles in these achievements, "which were unimaginable when we first started working together nearly four years ago." Solar has come of age and become a significant presence in the U.K., Sisson said, pointing out that as the market has expanded, so too must the STA to meet the new challenges ahead.

"It is vital that solar energy strengthens its voice, particularly with an eye on the increasingly competitive post-subsidy world," he added.

While the STA and REA may now be two separate organizations, they will continue to work side by side towards the common goal of mainstreaming renewable energy, Sisson said.

REA Chairman Martin Wright added, “Solar heating and solar power are vitally important technologies, with the potential to reduce energy costs for U.K. households and businesses. Our members want us to strengthen our offer for these important technologies.”

Wright added that the REA would achieve this "by building on the excellent capacity in our existing On-site and Renewable Power sector groups. We will continue to apply our unparalleled policy expertise and strong relations with government to the goal of securing a bright future for U.K. solar energy."

The REA and STA said they had worked together to achieve a number of goals, including helping the rooftop sector through the challenging period of drastic changes to feed-in tariffs in 2011-12 and helping to restore stable growth to the industry; helping the ground-mounted industry grow from a standing start to being one of the leading markets in the world; and taking the lead on promoting best practice in the development of ground-mounted solar farms.

In addition, the groups said they secured the government’s commitment to put "rocket boosters" under the commercial rooftop market; played leading roles in a campaign against excessive import tariffs on solar products of Chinese origin; formulated policy on the Domestic and Non-Domestic Renewable Heat Incentives, the first in any country; and protected "embedded benefits" for generators connected to the distribution grid and campaigned to keep the government’s Zero Carbon Homes agenda on track.

Despite ending their formal affiliation, the STA and REA said they would remain open to collaboration on areas of mutual interest in the future.