Renewables sector stumped by solar PV snub

Onshore wind? Tick. Offshore wind? Tick. Biomass heat? Tick.

What do all the above have in common? They are all on a list of eight key technologies which the Government believes can contribute 90 per cent of its target of generating the country’s energy from renewable sources by 2020.

Notable by its absence on the list in the UK Renewable Energy Roadmap published last this week? Solar PV technology.

Although it is a blueprint for how the Government aims to meet its target of generating 15 per cent of the UK’s energy from renewable sources within the next nine years, it has omitted both solar PV and solar thermal from the list.

It is a perplexing omission, especially considering that the 106 page document actually includes a solar PV case study.

Of course, as passionate believers in renewable energy and its potential to more than meet the Government targets by 2020, we welcome any plan which helps the UK reduce its dependence on traditional energy sources.

But to make no reference to solar technology in a list which includes onshore wind, offshore wind, marine energy, biomass electricity, biomass heat, ground source heat pumps, air source heat pumps and renewable transport is confusing for the renewables industry.

The solar sector is just getting off the ground, instead of niche it is becoming more mainstream, projects are being developed to take advantage of the Government’s RHI premium payment scheme and the Feed-in-Tariffs.

So you can understand why there is confusion. One on hand there appears to be a groundswell of support for solar PV and the benefits it can bring from both an environmental and a financial viewpoint.

But then the Roadmap effectively marginalises the technology, believing that together with hydropower and geo-thermal power, it will only generate the remainder of the Government’s ten per cent target.

There is £30 million being pumped into offshore wind innovation. And there is £20 million to support marine schemes.

Perhaps it was a wet and windy day when the authors of the UK Renewable Energy Roadmap put the document together. And although we may not have the heat of the Caribbean, we do have sunlight. Energy generated via solar PV is based on daylight not heat. So on a cold, sunny day Solar PV will produce more electricity per hour of sunlight because the panels work best when they are cooler.

Let’s hope the Roadmap is an action plan not set in stone. Solar PV is a vital part of the renewable energy mix and it is the diversity of renewable sources which will make any effort to cut back our reliance on gas and oil far more successful.

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