The government has significantly revised their forecast for solar energy use over the next Parliament. Energy Secretary Ed Davey has predicted that solar energy could account for 4% of all the UK’s energy by 2020. He said that the dramatic reduction in the cost of solar panels was a major factor in this revision, as well as in the decision to stop offering subsidies for most large scale solar installations (over 5MW) by the end of March. The price of solar panels has come down by approximately 70% in recent years as a result of a burgeoning worldwide market for solar power, created by various governments offering subsidies.
Ed Davey said he expected a figure of up to 14GW of solar by 2020 – a significant increase from 5GW at the end of 2014. Roughly, this equates to an increase from just 1.5% of the UK’s total annual electricity supply to slightly under 4%. He said he expected it to grow further in the next decade. The subsidy for domestic solar power is to continue.
Solar power companies however disagree with the Government’s interpretation of the figures, saying that despite the reduction in set up costs, ongoing solar energy production is not yet ready to compete with that of fossil fuels. The cutting of subsidies in fact looks likely to cause a moratorium on the development of large scale solar power in the UK, at least for the foreseeable future.
The withdrawal of subsidies has sparked a frantic rush among solar developers, as they race to get their new installations connected to the grid before the cut off date. Roughly the same amount of new capacity has been installed in the first three months of 2015 as were in the whole of 2014. This short term boom will not be carried forward throughout 2015, with the Solar Trades Association expecting new installations to fall significantly from April.