Category: Insight

Solar PV named most popular renewable energy technology

Statistics released by the Department for Energy and Climate Change (DECC) on Tuesday 4th August reveal that solar PV is the UK’s most popular renewable energy technology.

The DECC surveyed the general public to gage attitudes and acceptance towards different renewable energy solutions, and solar PV was the runaway winner with 81 percent of respondents in favour of its deployment. Just 6 percent of respondents opposed the technology.

Wave and tidal energy was the second most popular source with 74 percent support, while onshore wind was the least popular – that being said, onshore wind was still supported by almost two-thirds (65 percent) of respondents.

The latest DECC survey suggests that wide support for renewables remains high in the UK, with 75 percent stating their support for renewable energy generation. In total, just 4 percent of those questioned opposed renewable energy deployment altogether.

These statistics appear to contradict the Conservative government’s continued assertions that the general public has had enough of utility-scale onshore wind and solar farms, using it as added ammunition for withdrawing subsidies.

Daisy Sands, Head of Energy at Greenpeace UK, told Solar Power Portal that the survey showed ministers’ priorities with regard to renewable energy are “at the polar opposite” of what the general public actually wants.

“Popular technologies like wind and solar are having their support axed, whilst the unpopular fracking industry keeps getting preferential treatment. It’s becoming quite clear that people are seeing through the smokescreen of propaganda and spin created by the shale lobby and their minister friends,” she added.


Ofgem confirm new feed-in tariff rates

Ofgem have confirmed what many had already predicted for the solar PV feed-in tariff rates from 1st October to 31 December 2015.

With Tory policy clearly aiming for an early end to government subsidies, the industry has received what looks to be a little rest bite.

The administrator confirmed that all tariff bands below 50kWp would experience a 3.5% degression at the end of next month. The only other band to be effected will be the stand-alone tariff, dropping from 4.44p/kWh to 4.28p/kWh.

Installations over 50kWp will remain as they are until 1st January 2016, when we are expecting to see a fairly significant reduction across the board. Time to move quickly and get your installation booked in.

Full tariff table below:

Can solar and wind power generators prosper in Britain without subsidies?

UK energy secretary Amber Rudd has defended her plans to reduce renewable energy subsidies and cut funds for home energy efficiency; saying that solar and wind power generators can prosper in Britain without them.

The Conservative government has put an early end to solar and biomass power subsidies and has cut schemes aimed at better insulating and powering homes. The programme’s inefficiencies and cost to tax payers has been cited as the reason for the cuts, however the decision has drawn widespread criticism from climate change groups and the industry itself.

Speaking to the Financial Times, Rudd said, “I feel we can deliver on low-carbon electricity through fewer subsidies. The point about subsidies is they should be something that provides support, ahead of going without subsidies. Nobody wants subsidies to be there permanently.”

“I will be talking to the solar industry to make sure that the support we are going to continue giving them for a little while longer does actually focus in the right area, to help become subsidy-free,” she added.

Industry shake up causes uncertainty

It seems that the Department of Energy and Climate Change (DECC) *may* have learnt from its series of solar-related legal disputes.

This time round, instead of taking immediate emergency action to revise subsidy rates the government has taken a rather more creative approach.

Soon after entering office, the Conservatives realised that the Department of Energy and Climate Change was going to be a problem. The latest internal analysis revealed that the Levy Control Framework was all but spent, including the 20% emergency headroom.

Given the wider austerity message and Treasury’s calls for £20 billion worth of cuts to Whitehall budgets, the Conservatives were never going to allow such a perceived overspend to continue.

The solution? Nine different green energy schemes have been cut or culled in the last fortnight.

Solar RO (Renewable Obligation) was unsurprisingly first up on the chopping block, partnered with a change to the pre-accreditation process for feed-in tariff projects. At first glance the proposed changes don’t look as bad as the industry had prepared itself for. But DECC has quietly introduced something that has the potential to be far more destabilising than immediate, harsh cuts…uncertainty.

Let’s look at the RO first, and the explosive removal of ‘grandfathering’. As part of the recent consultation, DECC is proposing that all solar farms installed between 22 July that aren’t eligible for the grace period will no longer have their support grandfathered.

Essentially what this means is that DECC can intervene at any point during the project’s lifetime and change the level of support a project receives. As DECC confirmed to Solar Power Portal on Monday, this will apply to both roof- and ground-mounted projects.

So now developers have the unenviable task of trying to convince investors to part with their money without even knowing what return they could be in line for. The problem for commercial rooftop owners is even more acute; how can you convince skeptical stakeholders that going solar is beneficial when you can’t even predict what level of support you will receive when you connect it?

Another change that DECC is looking to implement is to remove the pre-accreditation process for the feed-in tariff. The pre-accreditation process allows installers to lock in a proposed installation’s feed-in tariff rate ahead of the install being completed. DECC’s proposed changes would again hit the commercial rooftop sector the hardest. Currently, ROO-FiT pre-accreditation gives a six-month window for installers to complete and connect a system. Crucially, this window allows installers to give potential customers the exact financial modelling for the proposed array. With the pre-accreditation process removed and an imminent announcement concerning the major review of the feed-in tariffs, installers won’t be able to give customers potential FiT rates with any degree of certainty.

All this means that those in the solar industry are the ones who will end up shouldering all of the risk. Do you guarantee the feed-in tariff rate to give some certainty to clients, putting enormous pressure on the company to deliver ahead of any potential tariff degressions, not to mention putting the project at the mercy of Ofgem’s accreditation process?

If DECC’s proposals don’t budge at all during the consultation period than solar at all scales will have no idea what level of support it will receive from the government until the site is accredited and generating.

I don’t believe that it is cynical to suggest that DECC knows exactly what impact its proposed changes will have. They are designed to drown the sector in uncertainty and put a halt to the perceived ‘runaway solar subsidy train’ – all without breaking any laws.

Well I’m sure we’ll find out if the proposed changes are legal and, going off past consultations, the industry isn’t holding out much hope for sizeable revisions to the department’s proposals.

Originally published by Peter Bennett on Solar Power Portal 31 July 2015

RenEnergy visit InterSolar

The RenEnergy team has just returned from their fifth annual visit to InterSolar Europe, the world’s leading exhibition for members of the solar industry and all of its associated partners.

Storage, storage, storage was the order of the day in Munich this year, as was only to be expected in an industry with rapidly fading subsidies, ever increasing energy prices, and not to mention the PR gurus at Tesla making global headlines with their offering, the Powerwall.

The main halls were amass with energy storage solutions ranging from domestic systems in tidy boxes to utility scale shipping containers, with virtually every manufacturer offering a solution. Lithium ion is a clear front runner in the technology stakes, with many suppliers boasting fantastically high depth of discharge levels and life cycles in to the tens of thousands.

The emphasis was still very much on the European market, Germany in particular, where considerably higher energy prices than the UK and dwindling feed-in tariff schemes play into the hands of what is still a fairly expensive technology.

Maximising grid-independence will be the name of the game in the UK, pairing the reliability of our national grid infrastructure with the cost effectiveness of micro generation. This is unlikely to see widespread uptake for another couple of years here in the UK, but we are confident that it will be the next major growth area for renewable technology.

Some countries however do not have the luxury of cheap, reliable electricity supplies. A scenario our colleagues at RenEnergy South Africa are only too aware of. They were very interested to see the development of off-grid capable ‘island systems’ on display at the show. With energy uncertainty playing into their hands, they have seen a huge increase in demand for reliable, cost-effective back-up systems. Currently in the process of launching a proprietary energy storage and off-grid PV solution, InterSolar was once again an invaluable research exercise.

Bernard Matthews on target to achieve carbon zero by 2020

Bernard Mathews, the largest turkey producer in the UK, has broken ground on the next phase of its large-scale carbon cutting exercise. By 2020, they aim to have reduced their carbon footprint to zero. A goal it hopes to achieve in part with the installation of 2.5MW of solar PV across 11 farms.

The key driver in the decision was ensuring a greener future for the company, but the greatly reduced running costs are a welcome bonus. Stuart Read Procurement Category Manager opted for Solar “as a safe, non-contentious, low maintenance and low intrusion option that suits our specific energy needs. We will benefit from lower operating costs for years to come.”

RenEnergy has been contracted to finance, design, supply and install 19 roof and ground mounted arrays, consisting of 10,000 PV panels paired with 110 inverters, generating an estimated 2.3 million kWh of energy per year.

“The technical challenges we have encountered are no different than any number of agricultural projects we have completed in the past, but operationally working around the critical timetables of numerous active poultry farms has been tough. Fortunately we have been aided by the excellent support of the farm managers, allowing us to minimise any onsite disturbance to the workers or birds.” Damian Baker, MD of RenEnergy.

Following the switch on of the first system in late March, BM have seen a reduction in grid electricity of 30%, with the site operating self-sufficiently for significant periods of the day. At this one site this saves a whole year’s worth of CO2 emissions from a family car every two weeks.

Phase two of development is following on from the successful installation of 229 biomass boilers and two large-scale solar farms totalling 11MW that formed the first phase of the big green plan.

RenEnergy, who offer a range of renewable technologies to customers across the East of England and South Africa, have been working in conjunction with a London based funder to deliver the project. The ground mount frame design is bespoke; designed specifically for RenEnergy by Wymondham-based firm Hi-Span. The proprietary frame ensures maximum use of the available space.

The installations will use ReneSola PV panels and inverters from the industry-leading Austrian manufacturer Fronius. “Design was key, and was carried out in conjunction with Bernard Matthews agriculture team to get the correct size system to ensure as much on-site usage as possible. Maximising usage year-on-year provides a higher return and increases reliability of the system” commented Mr. Baker.