COP21 Paris Climate Conference: Everything you need to know

Check out Edie’s excellent preview guide to the COP21 Paris Climate Conference – dubbed the most important climate talks ever with 138 heads of state and 25,000 official delegates expected to be in attendance.

Source: COP21 Paris Climate Conference: Everything you need to know


The future of UK solar PV – survival of the fittest or last man standing?

The last man standing...

And so the UK solar energy industry reacts with shock and incredulity, once more flabbergasted that the architects of the ‘greenest government ever’ could be so perverse, duplicitous and downright bonkers. The seemingly inevitable slide towards the slashing of the Feed-in Tariff (FIT) subsidies in the New Year is more than a bit depressing for an industry which has had more than its fair share of body blows over the last few years.

Darwin said that it is not the strongest or most intelligent of the species that survives, but the one that is the most adaptable to change. Whilst he surely did not have the UK solar industry in mind, his sentiments ring true. For all the intoxicating highs (and there have been many) and desperate lows of life on the UK solarcoaster over the last few years, those businesses who have dodged, weaved, innovated and changed have generally prevailed to sniff out the next great emerging market opportunity.

Whilst the proposed FIT cuts of up to 87% are still only in consultation and yet to be finalised, the murmurings and leaks coming out of Westminster certainly indicate that this is a done deal. Indeed, as installers dash to install what they can whilst they can in the next four months, there is surely a strong possibility that the subsidy pot will be completely emptied enabling DECC to finally kill the FIT once and for all.

And this time the cuts to subsidies will surely have the deepest effect with many well established, highly resourced and skilled businesses of all shapes and sizes set to start the New Year with a battle for survival and inevitable job losses. This time sniffing out the next PV market opportunity will be a bit trickier with only a few viable target market segments remaining and with too many businesses fighting over them.

So what will be left in 2016? We will see one final hurrah for the ground mount market as developers squeeze what they can out of the RO funding pot before the end of March deadline. Of course the writing has been on the wall for this segment for some time, with many businesses already exporting their expertise to developing markets overseas or striving to come up with an effective and profitable rooftop offering.

Assuming that the FIT does survive into the New Year, the proposed 1.63p rate for sub 10kWp installs will bring the residential market to a shuddering halt. Perhaps the segment with the greatest opportunity will be commercial buildings. Whilst not achieving anything like the rooftop revolution that had been championed by previous and current Tory ministers, the cuts in this segment are the most shallow with a mere 60% reduction! Whilst the PPA models are dead (for the time being) UK-based businesses, particularly those who own their own buildings, will still buy in to the benefits that solar can provide.

For all the tough times that lie ahead, the industry will survive through change, continuing innovation, and by embracing the self-sufficiency challenge that UK Government has set. With or without subsidies, businesses and homeowners will continue to have an appetite for investing in clean power and the UK PV industry must adapt its sales pitch accordingly. Product innovation – driven by growth markets in other countries where government policies are more supportive – and falling costs of product and installation will combine to provide a stimulus to keep the industry ticking along.

For those companies who are willing and able to hang on in there – and who can blame the many who will leave or chase opportunities elsewhere – my prediction is short term pain for medium term gain leading to exactly what the industry always wanted – a sustainable and subsidy-free market operating outside the reach of government meddling.