It is not relying too heavily on journalistic tropes to say that sunny days are not the first thought that come to mind when we think of the United Kingdom, but according to the country’s solar power trade group, the peak solar generation record was broken twice over the first two days of this week.
The UK’s Solar Trade Association announced twice this week that the country’s all-time solar generation peak record was broken, first on May 13 around noon when solar hit a generation peak of 9.47 GW – which surpassed the record previously set in May 2017 of 9.38 GW – then again a day later on May 14 when generation peaked at 9.55 GW at around 12:30pm.
“It is impossible to argue with the numbers,” crowed STA Director of Advocacy and New Markets Léonie Greene. “The bright clear skies combined with mild temperatures means solar has consistently met big portions of electricity demand throughout recent days.
“Days like these show that the technology can deliver clean, affordable power in abundance. We now need Government to provide a level playing field with other technologies and allow solar to thrive without public support. Currently solar in the UK faces a plethora of barriers which have dramatically slowed deployment.
“The sobering reports out recently from the International Energy Agency and the International Monetary Fund show fossil fuels subsidies are rising globally as renewables investment stagnates. Every country now needs to buck that trend and particularly the UK given we still lag behind the EU average for renewable energy.”
The stereotype of British weather is not the only factor contributing to the lack of attention on the country’s solar industry. As STA’s Léonie Greene suggested, the UK Government must now allow the numbers to speak for themselves and stop hindering the industry’s role in the country’s energy mix.
Specifically, as the STA highlights, there are a number of challenges facing the UK’s solar industry. Prime among them are “challenging policy and regulatory issues” such as a proposed change to the way the already reduced-rate value added tax (VAT) is applied to solar as an energy saving technology, and a lack of “clear and fair remuneration” for small-scale and residential solar to export power to the country’s grid.
Further, solar is consistently excluded from involvement in the Government’s Contracts for Difference (CfD) scheme for providing new capacity – relegated with onshore wind as the only two renewable technologies unable to participate.
In addition, the STA points to “unfair business rates for organisations that install solar on their buildings and a glut of unhelpful charging regulation reforms proposed by Ofgem” as further impediments to the way solar can participate in the energy mix.
Currently, solar only provides around 4% of the UK’s electricity. It is nevertheless one of the UK’s most popular sources of electricity, with 80% of community energy schemes featuring solar power and with solar on over 975,000 homes.
In the Government’s own Public Attitudes Tracker, solar consistently scores well over 80% in terms of its communal popularity and reached a record 89% in the latest Tracker.
These new record peak generation records may not play a huge part in the way solar is viewed moving forward, but it is more fuel to the argument that the UK Government must quickly allow solar the same support and lack of impediments granted to other renewable energy technologies.