DECC has confirmed it now sees large-scale solar photovoltaic (PV) installations as playing a significant role in ensuring the UK will meet its 2020 renewable energy target
In an update to its renewable energy roadmap, the energy department amended the list of “key technologies” deemed necessary to meet the 15% generation target to include solar PV alongside bioenergy, wind and marine power.
A dramatic fall in the costs of both PV panels and installation during 2011/2012 and high levels of popular support for the technology has resulted in DECC re-evaluating the technology’s potential generating capacity.
Following a 466% increase in solar PV capacity in the 12 months to June 2012 – due to take up of the feed-in tariff scheme – the energy department now estimates that solar PV could provide between 7–20GW of the UK’s electricity by 2020.
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.
Publication of the revised roadmap came after DECC outlined higher than expected subsidy levels for medium and large-scale PV under the next phase of the Renewables Obligation (RO).
The energy department had proposed cutting RO subsidies for PV by 25% from 1 April 2013 to 1.5 ROCs/MWh, gradually falling to just 0.9 ROCs/MWh in 2016/17. However, it has now announced that in recognition of the need to support commercial installations of PV it will create separate RO bandings for ground-mounted and roof-mounted arrays.
Companies that install PV panels onto their warehouses or manufacturing facilities, for example, will be able to claim 1.7 ROCs/MWh, slightly more than ground-mounted projects which will receive 1.6 ROCs. Both bandings will fall in subsequent years, but at a slower rate than originally proposed to 1.4 ROCs/MWh and 1.2 ROCs/MWh respectively.
The Renewable Energy Association welcomed the changes. “Large-scale solar PV has now joined the UK’s premier league of renewables and is poised to make a major contribution to our electricity supplies in the coming years,” it said.