Solar bosses are today hailing 2021 as another record-busting twelve months for clean PV-generated power. Figures just released prove gigawatts of the speedily deployed technology are a proven proposition, says trade body Solar Energy UK.
Across Britain’s roofs and fields, last year saw a record 730 MWp commissioned, a leap of 36% on 2020’s 538 MWp, the membership organisation said, quoting trade research and government figures.
With centralised fossil-based power hobbled last year by rocketing gas prices, Britain now has its highest ever total of 14.6GWp of solar panels installed and generating. That’s 5.3% up on 2020.
The energy crisis is pushing cost-sensitive owners of commercial roofs towards clean, quickly deployed solar, today’s figures demonstrate. Even in lockdown, UK warehouses, factories and industrial buildings notched up 369MW of new arrays in 2021. The segment’s previous peak, 869MW in 2015, was buoyed by subsidies such as the Feed-in Tariff and ROCs. Since April 2019, none has been available for new solar projects.
“Fastest sustained growth we’ve ever seen” – wholesaler, Cambridge
Subsidy-free, stable growth of the technology mark out last year as “potentially the most significant year to date” for the UK solar industry, in the trade body’s words. For the first time UK solar’s three sectors – domestic roofs, commercial buildings and ground-mounted farms – are all advancing in lockstep.
“It is indescribably insane…. ..the fastest sustained growth we’ve ever seen”, Jamie Vaux, commercial director at Midsummer Wholesale in Cambridge, an SEUK member, said of business in 2022’s first weeks.
“We are recruiting for a dozen open roles, have new starters every week, and opened new premises that will quadruple our warehouse space. We hit absolute max capacity every day, though we’re working around the clock to keep adding resources”.
Solar Energy UK boss Chris Hewett said: “2021 was the year the UK’s solar industry came of age. We are now seeing stable, sustained growth across the sector, with order books overflowing.
“As fossil fuel energy bills soar, rooftop solar in particular is now very popular. More and more consumers and businesses are investing in solar because they know it is a proven way to cut their energy bills and carbon emissions. It is also now a cheap way to charge EVs and decarbonise heating.”
Sunnier than a supernova
Hewett called again for the Johnson administration to set a deployment target of 40GW for solar by 2030.
“It would support the industry to take long-term investment decisions and build the workforce skills that will create thousands of green jobs across the whole country”, the Solar Energy UK chief said.
Over 5GW of arrays now generate from Britain’s roofs, plus another 9 GW from solar farms.
Three Whitehall- or Westminster-inspired moves promise to push solar to a yet higher orbit in 2022, SEUK believes:
- new building regulations in the Future Homes Standard should lead more solar on new homes.
- unfair tax treatment will end for businesses installing onsite solar, the government has pledged.
- yearly auctions for wholesale solar power
In clean heat for homes, a technology war may be looming. The SEUK says 67,000 home PV and solar thermal deployments logged in 2021 by the Microgeneration Certification Scheme far outstrip 24,000 air-sourced and 3,000 ground-sourced heat pumps.
In terms of output, DUKES, the government’s yearly database of energy statistics, fails to separate solar generation from wind and hydro. 2021’s analysis is not due until July. But in Britain’s Covid-depressed mix for 2020, renewable-sourced electricity at 43.1% for the first time passed hydrocarbon-dependent power, which logged only 37.7%.