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.”