Recent falls in the cost of photovoltaic (PV) technologies mean that the government now sees solar power as playing an important role in meeting the UK's renewable energy targets
The government has amended its renewable energy roadmap to include solar PV alongside bioenergy, wind and marine power, as a “key technology” in ensuring the UK meets its 2020 target for 15% of energy to come from renewable sources.
With the costs of some PV installations halving between summer 2011 and March 2012, the technology now has the “potential to form a significant part of our renewable energy generation mix”, according to the updated DECC document, which covers renewables policy from Whitehall and the devolved administrations.
In the update, DECC confirms that the UK remains on track to meet its 2020 target with 11% of all electricity now coming from renewable sources. In the 12 months to July 2012, renewable electricity generation increased 27%, with offshore wind capacity increasing 60% year-on-year and solar PV capacity leaping 466% to 1.4GW.
DECC predicts that by 2020 solar PV could provide between 7–20GW of electricity, and with falling costs, easy installation and high levels of public support, the technology could play an important role in connecting communities and businesses with renewable energy and the transition to the low-carbon economy.
While predicting that the greatest growth in solar PV generation will remain small-scale installations (less than 50kW), the roadmap states that larger arrays are increasingly financially viable. The energy department says it will publish a solar PV strategy later in the year with the aim of further boosting industry and investor confidence.
“It’s a fantastic achievement that more than 10% of our power now comes from renewables, given the point from which we started,” said energy secretary Ed Davey.
“Getting new infrastructure investment into the economy is crucial to driving growth and supporting jobs across the country. I am determined that we get ahead in the global race on renewables.”
In its update, DECC confirms that it has completed 72 of the 110 actions outlined in the original roadmap, which was published in July 2011, and outlines how it is making progress on its outstanding plans, including allocating funds for innovation, helping the sectors to reduce costs and working to ensure financial stability (through subsidies and contracts for difference).
Alongside the government’s promised strategy on solar PV, 2013 will see the implementation of new subsidy levels under the Renewables Obligation and the addition of new technologies eligible for support under the Renewable Heat Incentive.