UK added 700 MW of FIT-driven PV in 2014, figures show

The U.K.’s residential rooftop PV sector enjoyed healthy and steady growth in 2014 as 125,000 homes added a solar system to their roof last year.

Data published today by the Department of Energy and Climate Change (DECC) reveals that overall, some 700 MW of solar PV capacity was added to the U.K.’s small-scale sector in 2014 – a healthy level of growth for the country’s FIT-eligible solar sector, said David Pickup, business analyst at the Solar Trade Association (STA).

"These latest statistics show that the FIT solar PV market is seeing healthy growth with plenty of solar going up on domestic and commercial roofs as well as small solar farms," he said.

The U.K. FIT is subject to regular reductions that are either triggered by volumes being met or a nine-month period being reached. Today’s announcement that the tariff for residential-size installations (sub 5 kW) is set to be reduced from April is the first time since 2012 that such a reduction has been triggered by installation growth rather than an automatic nine-month reduction.

However, despite growth of more than 50% in the 10 kw – 50 kW sector (driven largely by deployment on schools, village halls and business units) between October and December, the added capacity was not enough to trigger a reduction in the tariff for this band.

"We are particularly pleased to see good levels of growth in the larger rooftop market with 33 MW of solar – 164 installations – installed in the last three months of 2014, more than double that in the previous quarter," added Pickup.

The analyst warned, however, that this rate of deployment is not enough if the sector is to meet the STA’s calculations for subsidy-free solar. "Our Solar Independence Plan sets out how we can restructure the FIT to get more solar for very little extra money and give a path to zero subsidy."

Within the largest FIT-eligible band (50 kW to 5 MW), deployment was of a sufficient rate to trigger a FIT degression, but such a reduction was already on the cards either way.

Speaking to pv magazine, IHS solar analyst Lauren Cook said that they were expecting an average of 40 MW of residential rooftop PV deployment each month in 2015.

"The residential sector in the UK has remained quite separate from the boom that we have seen in large-scale UK PV and the commercial sector," said Cook. "We do not envisage major residential growth in 2015. There will be the odd peak and trough when the FIT changes, but generally we foresee a stable year or two for residential PV in the U.K."