Why we’re bullish about UK solar
Published May 2016
Christophe Campistron tells us why UK solar isn’t dead – it’s just regrouping.
Let’s be honest, the mood in UK solar over the last 12 months hasn’t been great. Along with most other renewables technologies, PV has faced the governmental axe following the election in May 2015.
The business impact has been brutal. There have been layoffs, bankruptcies and restructurings across the UK solar industry – first amongst residential solar installers, and more recently the bigger ground-mount players.
Trade press has reported on the numbers – for instance, 576 workers were made redundant within just 6 months of the announcements, with many hundreds similarly vulnerable now that the support cut-off date for large projects has passed.
For us at Everoze, we don’t just see the numbers: we feel the human impact too. The people working in these PV companies aren’t just our clients – after years of working together, they’re very often our friends too, and we know that this downsizing has had a very real personal impact.
And yet, despite everything, we can’t help but see the glass half full. Onlookers called us crazy when we launched our business just three months after the election results seemed to spell the end of new UK renewables. But 8 months after our launch, our team has already grown to 17 – and we’re still hiring. We’re convinced that opportunities are still out there.
If you ask us, there are two reasons why UK solar isn’t dead.
1. The UK solar sector has an extraordinary ability to pursue new business models
The UK solar sector is brilliantly quick-moving and entrepreneurial. So solar players are now strategically regrouping. Some are positioning themselves closer to large energy users; by deploying business models such as private wire deployment and sleeving arrangements, they can achieve revenue closer to retail prices, rather than relying on low wholesale energy price. Others are taking the strategy of pursuing huge (50MW+) projects, to maximise economies of scale. And others are diversifying into solar-storage, spurred by opportunities to access new revenue streams such as Enhanced Frequency Response.
2. A global perspective shows that solar is unstoppable
And let’s not forget the bigger picture. Through working on projects internationally, we’ve seen the policy-induced boom ‘n’ bust for solar happen across countries time and time again. But here’s what we’ve found: after the bust, solar nearly always bounces back. Sometimes it takes a few months, sometimes a few years – but solar rarely dies.
Take France as an example. In 2010, a cut in feed-in tariffs threatened to destroy the French solar sector. Thousands were laid off. The market was dead for 9 months. Fast-track to 2016, and the industry body Conseil Supérieur de l’Energiehas just approved an increase in the solar PV target to 20.2GW by 2023. The French solar business is incredibly busy – and let’s remember, this is a country famed for nuclear power.
A global perspective emphasises the truly unstoppable growth of PV: worldwide solar installations hit 59GW in 2015, with around 66GW projected for this year. Every month a new country seems to break a record for ultra-low PV prices – most recently, 2.99¢/kWh in Dubai. That’s pretty amazing.
So have faith. The UK solar sector is full of fantastically entrepreneurial and imaginative people. They responded quickly when feed-in tariffs were first introduced in 2009, and continue to respond creatively now. And all the while, global PV deployment continues to shoot upwards.
UK solar ain’t dead, it’s just regrouping. This is a sector destined for success, and we’re hugely excited about what the future holds.