Posts tagged with: Clive collison

As usual, it seemed that the UK was falling behind competitors from abroad from a reluctance to look to the future and fully back green energy through strong legislation. Solar markets in Spain, Germany and Italy to name but a few in Europe, attracted investment through incentive schemes in the form of feed-in tariffs. With the UK government finally introducing the Clean Energy Cash Back scheme in April 2010, it now appears that the financial mechanism is in place to help UK solar investment catch up with more mature markets overseas.

According to many within the industry, the UK now has everything in place to become a player in the global solar market.

“The UK market for solar PV is growing explosively. This is because the FITs [feed-in tariffs] bring a huge new raft of players – the energy users – into the market; broadening it way beyond the traditional energy industry. All renewable power sources are benefitting, but solar is doing best because it is so easy to apply,”

Commented Philip Wolfe, Director of Ownenergy and leading exponent of feed-in tariffs.

With the tariffs working as a means of incentivisation for investors who were once reluctant to invest in what was once an extremely expensive field, the tariffs offset costs and greatly improve the attractiveness of green energy investments. In all countries where tariffs have been introduced there has been a massive uptake in investment with individuals keen to take advantage of legislation-protected investments with healthy ROIs.

With regards to potential for the solar PV industry, Edwin Koot CEO of Solarplaza stated that,

“Having experienced the benefits that FITs have to offer, European countries are now looking to capitalise on the emerging UK market. We can already see signs of this happening for our upcoming UK PV Conference: where 67% of delegate registrations are from international companies, compared to just 33% from the UK.”

However, warning that in the current climate the UK solar PV industry is unlikely to achieve overnight success, Clive Collison of South Facing said,

“It will take time to develop the UK market. Currently there is a lack of knowledge so education of potential customers and businesses is needed. Right now, very few people understand the feed-in tariff system and the opportunities to their full extent.

It took Germany, Spain and Italy three years after the start of their feed-in tariff to reach a substantial market scale. No doubt a similar market development will occur in the UK. That is why conferences like the UK PV Conference are important, to educate the business community and customers and build the business infrastructure. There will be plenty of business for everybody.”

At the beginning of the month the British parliament voted in favour of a parliamentary motion supporting next year’s introduction of feed-in tariffs by a massive majority of 240 MPs. The legislation designed to spur investment in the photovoltaic (PV) industry will, when implemented be an extremely effective mechanism for promoting growth in the fledgling renewable industry in the UK as it has been in other regions where feed-in tariff legislation has been introduced.

Feed-in tariffs work by offering fixed, premium rates for electricity fed-in to the grid by small scale solar energy producers. Over a period of 20-25 years the feed-in tariff (FIT) contract offers a return to solar investors thus greatly increasing the installation of PV plant. In Germany, for example where the tariff has been extremely successful in attracting investment there have been other market advantages such as job creation in the solar industry and of course a sharp rise in solar equipment manufacturing.

Members of the UK solar industry are now increasingly optimistic that the government FIT will generate a successful solar industry across the UK. As Clive Collison, head of Action South Facing a Hertfordshire based solar installation firm commented,

“We are very excited about this. We are now getting all sorts of inquiries from companies, local authorities and individuals. But nothing is guaranteed. We don’t know the level it will be set at yet and the big energy companies are still lobbying against it.”

With big conventional energy producers lobbying against solar energy legislation and a lingering support for nuclear power, it will be essential that the government seizes the opportunity this year to set up a FIT which offers real possibilities for a vibrant PV industry in Britain. With Gordon Brown’s commitment to the ‘Green New Deal’ with planned job creation and economic revitalization by means of the renewable energy industry, it is expected that the UK will reap the benefits of a strong tariff mechanism. Jeremy Leggett, Chairman of Solar Century has added his wait to the debate by pointing out the dangers of missing the boat on effective PV policy,

“UK plc will essentially have to sit and watch as other countries create jobs, tax income and energy security in one of the fastest-growing industries within the emerging green industrial revolution.”