2020 was a pivotal year for solar in the United Kingdom. It was the first entire calendar year of the subsidy-free solar, not only because of the unforeseen global pandemic. Despite these obstacles, the sector has performed admirably. As per research undertaken by Solar Media Ltd and Solar Energy UK, a sector trade body, new solar PV production grew by 27 percent year on year in the year 2019 compared to the previous year, with about 545MW of the new capacity installed.
Ground-mounted PV systems accounted for 60% of this, while rooftop PV systems accounted for 40%, mainly on commercial as well as industrial buildings. By May, solar’s share of the UK’s electricity supply had risen to over 30%. As the sector begins its second year without subsidies, but yet another year of the epidemic, it hopes to benefit from the recent work-from-home trend, which has seen a drastic rise in interest in home renovations, including increasing domestic energy bills. The Solar Energy UK is conducting related research to promote further take-up of the roof-top solar as a way to offset the energy costs to exploit this burgeoning market.
Amidst a slowdown in development compared to expectations, especially in the residential market, UK solar has proven to be “adaptable to the pandemic,” according to Chris Hewett, chief executive of Solar Energy UK. “By September, the sector had recovered to pre-lockdown levels, primarily due to underlying market dynamics, continued technological cost reductions, and the utility-scale market achieving grid parity,” he says.
As per the trade organization, 300MW of 545MW installed last year were all the merchant risk ventures or had corporate or the public sector power purchase agreements (PPAs). “There’s no government funding at all,” Hewett says, indicating that the economics of solar have hit a tipping point.”
Furthermore, he claims that a combination of increased climate change awareness and a mentality of ‘build back better’ – the mantra driving the incumbent government’s green industrial transition agenda – is having a great effect on the residential market. According to MCS, the low-carbon standards organization, between 3,000 as well as 4,000 PV installations were installed per month in the second half of the year 2020.
“More guys sitting in their houses realizing, ‘Actually, I’m using more energy than I was before,’ and this, coupled with a growing interest in house renovations during the disease outbreak, has seen more people regard solar as an alternative,” Hewett notes.
According to a study conducted by the International Energy Agency, working from home will raise household energy consumption by about 7% to 23% as compared to working at the workplace. The range was determined by regional differences in the average home size, heating as well as cooling needs, and appliance quality.