Solar is the future and it’s something to get excited about said Kerry Burns during a talk at Low Carbon South West’s event at the Bristol and Bath Science Park on 22nd April 2015.
The debate, entitled ‘The Future of Renewables’, put the UK solar power industry in the spotlight and Mr Burns compelling argument was well received. Burns is the Commercial Director of Bristol-based company Your Power , part of the city’s groundbreaking BASIC installer’s co-operative. His presentation focused on the viability of solar PV in the UK which, despite regular grumbles about the British weather, has a good climate for solar technology. This is because solar power has the ability to perform well even on cloudy days, given that it merely requires light to function, not direct sunlight.
Furthermore, there are 250,000 hectares of viable commercial rooftops in the UK, a huge and virtually untapped resource of energy generation. It is also a great opportunity for owners and occupiers to reduce their energy bills.
Solar power is the biggest, cheapest and best way to harness energy, argued Mr Burns. In February of this year, the International Energy Agency (IEA) said that solar energy will be the largest global energy source by 2050. This argument is supported by the German think-tank, Agora Energiewende, which believes that solar PV will provide the cheapest electricity of any source within 10 years. This is already being recognised in the UK despite the need for further consolidation between installers and the solar market. Until 2010 there were very few installers, probably around 30 throughout the country. Now, there are around 2,700 installers nationwide.
“At a basic level this is really sensible, low pollution energy generation technology that we can have on our own homes and businesses – it represents a huge step towards democratised energy” Mr Burns said. “Grid parity is already achieved in some circumstances and we now look to reduce costs wherever we can in the supply chain to help this happen. One of the main drivers is the energy savings from not buying electricity via the national grid. This increases year on year as unit price goes up.”
Kerry then went on to discuss solar storage, explaining that the main driver in the UK market over the next two years will be increasing energy self-reliance using storage technologies which the British government is now supporting with funding incentives. On a commercial scale, there are both carrots and sticks when it comes to making solar PV a reality. On the one hand, solar is becoming accepted as an easy way to drive down energy costs without necessarily needing to spend anything upfront. Additionally, for investors, the returns are more compelling than ever before – 15-20 percent per annum, index linked to the Retail Price Index (RPI) for 20 years.
Furthermore, the Energy Performance in Buildings Directive requires all rental buildings to reach an energy performance of E or above by the end of 2018 while the Energy Savings Opportunity Scheme (ESOS) places a legal requirement on large (non-SME) companies to audit their energy use each year. This regulatory environment increases the viability of solar PV as a valuable option because it can offset the cost of these requirements with no upfront capital cost necessary to increase building efficiency.
Affordability for homeowners is increasing also. For example, the domestic Power Purchase Agreement market, which is hugely successful in the USA, may be taking off in the UK, which is great news for homeowners. Leasing the roof to the system owner will enable homeowners to receive discounted electricity from their arrays for 20 years, making a saving of 15 percent per year on or over their household bills, with no capital outlay or risk.
Kerry summarised his presentation by looking to the future and thinking about how solar really can be made a reality.
“Legislation, combined with wide availability of installers and increasing affordability make solar now more appealing, more accessible and more implementable than ever before” he said.
Your Power UK specialises in solar PV installations and new technology. The company has completed in excess of 9 MW across 4,000 installations, with a rare 100 percent customer satisfaction rating. Recent clients include Wessex Water, Stopgate Farm and Bristol’s Southmead Hospital. It was also the first company to achieve golden ‘Proving It’ status with Go Green, Bristol 2015’s business engagement award scheme.