Tuesday 3 January 2012

After the Party - UK PV Industry in 2011

How to build a sustainable industry

The UK photovoltaic solar installation industry returns to work in 2012 with the mother and father of all hangovers.
The chart shows the amount of solar photovoltaic capacity added each week in megawatts during 2011. 

On October 31st, the Department of Energy and Climate Change (DECC) launched a consultation on the Feed in Tariff (see earlier blog post here).  Alarmed by the rate at which solar installations were using up the allocated budget, DECC also announced that tariff levels were to be cut by more than half from December 12th.

A sprint to the line ensued, with 382MWp installed in the six weeks leading up to the deadline - more than the total since the Feed in Tariff scheme began in April 2010.  In the last week before the cut, 126MWp was installed and commissioned - sixteen times the rate of installation through the summer.

Unfortunately, the finishing line for this race was set up on a cliff edge.  The week after the deadline, installations fell 98% to only 2MW.

It remains to be seen what the long term impact on PV businesses will be.  This deadline was always going to pull forward installations, suppressing demand for a time afterwards. 

However, scaling up a business by sixteen-fold over a few weeks while at the same time maintaining the quality of solar installations would appear to be a ferociously difficult challenge.  We must hope that this challenge was met; else it could damage the reputation of an industry for years to come.