Liz MacFarlane, Director at leading renewable energy distributor Segen, discusses the role of the UK solar industry in helping to build the green recovery. Liz also explores why Segen and AMP Clean Energy are working together to boost solar opportunities and help support the UK’s path to net zero.
What is the current state of play with solar energy in the UK?
The industry is accustomed to riding the “solar coaster” which was a subsidy driven peak and trough environment. Thankfully, things feel more stable these days as the costs of solar PV has fallen, technology continues to advance and there are compelling reasons for homes and businesses to move to renewable energy in the absence of subsidy. There are many established key players in the industry but also many new market entrants, which is great to see.
The solar industry is really striding ahead in the UK with solar technologies now adorning one in 25 buildings around Great Britain. The industry is a huge employer, supporting around 6,600 jobs around the UK. The UK energy sector workforce employs 144,000 people directly.
What is the role of solar energy in the path to meeting net zero by 2050?
In May 2020 solar energy’s contribution to UK electricity supply peaked at over 30 per cent, creating a record 11 per cent of all UK electricity coming from solar.1 That shows the potential of smart solar energy.
Solar generation and energy storage doesn’t just help users to cut carbon and costs, it can also help to reduce spikes in electricity demand, contributing to grid stability. With our increased dependency on electricity and the move towards EV, energy demand will only continue to grow. Solar enables businesses and householders to become contributors and that is a very valuable position to be in.
The Committee on Climate Change, along with other government bodies, have concluded that the UK needs 54GW of solar PV by 2035 to be on track to meet its 2050 targets. Whilst this is completely achievable, there are a few hurdles we need to overcome to make the path a little smoother.
Does the current policy framework enable solar energy to reach its full potential?
The Government’s stop start approach with no clear overall message for solar over the years has not been helpful. Currently, some businesses may be unsure how they realise the value of a solar asset. There is also a lack of understanding about planning issues and network operators’ requirements, among other challenges.
Solar Energy UK is focussed on immediate priorities to help realise the potential of solar energy. These include a green tax reform on business rates and ambitious minimum energy efficiency standards in new build properties, which will make it more of a level playing field for solar. Finally providing better access to green finance is essential in helping businesses and households unlock the benefits of smart solar energy.
How can capital mobilisation in the commercial and industrial sector boost the deployment of solar and other technologies like storage?
Solar projects can take many months of planning, so businesses need to understand where funding is coming from at the start of the process. Capital removes a huge barrier to solar energy, as does expertise and knowledge.
Solar generation has the lowest technology cost of all renewables. Solar panels, which are quick and easy to install, are now at their most efficient, providing greater output for physically smaller areas. This all makes it a great time for businesses and homeowners to take advantage of low cost, net zero, solar energy.
How has the coronavirus pandemic impacted the UK solar industry?
The UK solar industry has become very resilient, versatile and entrepreneurial over the years. The industry has adapted their practices and business models to the changing environment. Installers have picked up quickly the idea of COVID-19 secure and safe working.
Solar energy is a great opportunity for organisations to be more self-sufficient, delivering long term energy security. A lot about how we live our lives is out of our control at the moment, but we can control how we use and store energy.
Why is Segen working with AMP Clean Energy?
Whilst Segen is in the business of selling renewable solutions, given our market-leading position, we have a wider responsibility to help the industry prosper. Segen and AMP Clean Energy share the same goal – to help increase opportunities for installers to develop more solar PV projects.
Installers may be having conversations which they cannot progress due to a funding or a knowledge gap. This is where AMP Clean Energy can help. We hope that introducing AMP Clean Energy to our customer base may help a wide range of installers, including those who have previously focused on residential solutions, to have the confidence and backing to approach larger scale projects.
What does 2021 hold for the UK solar industry?
The solar industry has navigated the challenges of a global pandemic and demonstrated genuine resilience. It is now continuing to upscale the contribution solar makes to UK renewables. Solar is well placed to help with both the green recovery and in making a meaningful contribution to our net zero targets.
I’m also really excited about working with AMP Clean Energy and the new solar PV opportunities this could open up in 2021.
1 Solar Energy UK Impact Report: https://www.solar.sheffield.ac.uk/pvlive/
These figures were verified by Sheffield Solar: https://www.solar.sheffield.ac.uk/pvlive/