As anyone in the industry (and many outside of it) knows, the UK Solar Market has gone through a fairly bumpy time over the last 8-years, with a succession if heavy FIT rate cuts, from the dizzy days of 43p per kWh for residential (0-4kWp) and 33p per kWh for commercial (10 - 50kWp) the rates were halved in Feb 2012, causing uproar, and then in a slow death by 1,000 cuts, the FIT tariff has been gradually reduced to under 4p per kWh and is set to disappear completely on the 31st March 2019.
So what has this meant for the the Solar PV market in the UK. In contrast to the 4,000+ MCS accredited installers in 2011/2012 the number on the MCS website is 1,300, but many of these have stopped trading and a large number are companies where installing solar is not their primary business. In fact the number of companies who treat solar as their main business is reckoned to be just a few hundred, with most diversifying into other renewables, LED light bulbs etc. to stay afloat.
However the market continues to remain steady, with signs of the usual pickup in activity ahead of the 31st March next year. Running the Solar PV department at Electec (high end prime housing contractors and Audio Visual Installers as well as MCS accredited solar installers) we are seeing the usual steady trickle of installations from developers looking to meet their SAP requirements. However SAP10, due in 2019 or 2020, will dramatically impact the development sector of the market, as the decarbonisation of the grid has meant that since 2012 the figure of 0.52kg of CO2 per kWh is set to drop to 0.233kg per kWh. This means that new developments will need a lot less renewables, and as solar tends to be the most popular option, this will mean fewer, and smaller, systems.
So whats left? Well the dawn of the electric car revolution is well and truly upon us, after a few false dawns (speaking from someone who was convinced that the Nissan Leaf back in 2011/12 would spark the boom!!) led from the front by Tesla. The rise in demand for electric cars has led to a pick up in both solar PV and battery storage, as customers have come around to the idea that if the battery is good enough to power their transport then it makes sense to have a solar system that stores excess power which you can then use to charge up your car. Its one thing to have your solar PV system provide you with electricity to power the washing machine, but its a far more appealing prospect to be able to drive to work on rays of sunshine!! As Tesla installers for much of the South East and London we have seen a rise in demand for solar PV installations for both retrofit and new build properties, and an increase in the size of the systems as well as often multiple powerwalls being required.
Of the Powerwalls that we have installed its possible to see the fantastic solution that everyone should be seeking to achieve, that of energy independence. One of our customers, who we installed a 4kWp PV system for and a Tesla Powerwall 2 last year, is routinely self-powered by circa 90% to 98%. This means that he has seen a fall in his electricity bills to just a tiny fraction of what they were. And another customer with only a 1.5kWp system, uses off-peak charging to charge up his battery from off peak power at 6p - 7p which he then uses during the day.
So it is the revolution in battery technology that will keep this Solar PV market afloat beyond April next year, with battery prices falling, as well as solar prices falling and panels becoming more efficient, we expect to see larger numbers of the hundreds of thousands of people who installed solar to start to install batteries and so see the benefits of having a solar system beyond that of a regular Feed-in Tariff cheque each quarter!