Positives and Negatives for the UK Renewables Industry

New statistics released by the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS) last week revealed an extensive  downturn in solar PV development in the UK.  In particular, the last two months shown, August and September, have seen just 13MW and 12MW installed respectively.

Since the closure of the Renewables Obligation for solar in March 2017 a similar level of new capacity has been added to the grid. In Q1 2017 it is estimated that 541 MW in capacity was added with Q2 and Q3 only deploying 77MW combined.

The government has committed to conduct a review of the feed-in tariff scheme before the end of this year, however resisted the chance to do so within its Clean Growth Strategy which largely ignored solar PV’s possible contribution to a cleaner power system.

However the stagnating solar deployment has been set against a backdrop of record renewables and low carbon generation in Q2 2017, indicating just how successful renewable energy has been at replacing legacy fossil fuel generators within the UK power mix.

BEIS revealed last week that a record 29.8% from renewable energies which was largely driven by soaring wind and PV generation.

James Court, head of policy and external affairs at the Renewable Energy Association, described the record as “another milestone” towards a more flexible energy system and said the success had been facilitated by the fall in costs of solar and wind.

“The government must address the policy barriers which have unnecessarily impeded their deployment over the last year and give the industry clarity around how the market will be structured in the 2020’s.

“We must now also replicate this progress within the heat and transport sectors. This means deploying renewable technologies which are able to utilise resources such as waste, bioenergy and low carbon power, coupled with smarter and more efficient housing. There is no single silver bullet.”

While solar stagnates heat pump technology continues to grow with new pioneering scheme to be developed in Clydebank. The development will use water pumped from the nearby River Clyde and will form part of the £250million Queen’s Quay regeneration project, the site chosen for the scheme has been the now disused John Brown’s shipyard.

Commenting on news that plans have been submitted Sarah Beattie-Smith, Senior Climate and Energy Policy Officer at WWF Scotland said: “Cutting our reliance on fossil fuels for heating our homes and buildings is the critical next stage in the journey to a zero carbon Scotland.  This exciting new project would apply technology already tried and tested by Scottish companies overseas.

“It’s fantastic to think that having played host to the industrial revolution the Clyde can now be the source of renewable heat, helping to stimulate Scotland’s part in the global low carbon industrial revolution.  With Scotland having no shortage of rivers or coastline near our towns and cities this technology could play an important role in helping us ensure half of all Scotland’s energy needs across heat, electricity and transport are met by renewables by 2030.”

Whilst renewable energy generation continues to produce high quantities of clean electricity heat generation is still highly carbon intensive. As heat generation accounts for half of all energy use it is therefore imperative to continue to develop technologies and launch projects in the renewable heat sector.

As more of these types are projects are launched we will see our reliance on carbon intensive heat technologies reduce much in the way we have seen renewable energy revolutionise electricity generation.

The answer will not be as simple as wind turbines or solar panels and the works involved may be more costly and initially on a smaller scale but in the long term the value is incalculable.

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