UK Releases Europe's First Solar Strategy

Although one would certainly call Germany’s long-standing solar feed-in tariff a successful solar strategy, the UK is the first European country to publish a dedicated Solar Strategy. 

The Department of Energy and Climate Change published a Solar Strategy that prioritizes rooftop solar with a short term target of penetrating the commercial sector and getting solar on a million homes by next year, double of what exists today. 

On the commercial side, the strategy envisions a network of "solar hubs" on the roofs of buildings and brownfield sites. "We want to move the emphasis for growth away from large solar farms and instead focus on opening up the solar market for the UK’s estimated 250,000 hectares of south facing commercial rooftops, says the Solar Strategy.

"We have managed to put ourselves among the world leaders on solar and this strategy will help us stay there. There is massive potential to turn our large buildings into power stations and we must seize the opportunity this offers to boost our economy," says Greg Barker, Minister for Energy & Climate Change.

One of UK’s solar farms:

Solar UK

Indeed, this year, the UK is expected to install 2.5 gigawatts (GW) of solar, surpassing Germany, which keeps pulling back its historic subsidies. 1.1 GW was add just from January through March, according to NPD Solarbuzz. The country’s goal is 20 GW by 2020 and is "considering changes to the financial support available to the sector to encourage further deployment."

"The boom in large-scale solar started much later in the UK than in most of Europe, so the country has been able to learn from others," Daniel Guttmann, head of Renewable Energy Strategy for PwC, told Bloomberg. "Projects are developed at much lower cost than earlier ones abroad. This right level of support, along with policy stability, is driving fast growth." 

Continued growth depends on the government keeping solar subsidies stable amidst push-back over rising energy costs.  For now, solar developers that have been burned recently in Spain, Italy and Germany are now headed for Britain.

"The UK is the last market in Europe that still has attractive subsidies for large-scale solar plants," says Jenny Chase, lead solar analyst for Bloomberg New Energy Finance. "The U.K. has a long way to go to meet its solar targets so we expect this market to be reasonably sustainable."

UK Turns New Leaf on Auctions

Meanwhile, the UK will be the first country to hold auctions for all kinds of renewables at once, pitting wind developers against solar as a way to bring down the cost of renewable energy.

Mature technologies like landfill gas, waste-to-energy and hydro will compete against each other, but emerging technologies will not – offshore wind, wave, tidal and biogas. 

Here’s the Solar Strategy: 

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