LAST YEAR saw 730MW of solar PV capacity installed around the UK – an increase of 36% on 2020, when 538MW was deployed. The total installed capacity in the UK is now 14.6GW – up 5.3% on 2020.
The most significant year to date for the UK solar industry, 2021 saw each of the three market segments – residential rooftop, commercial scale and ground-mount – showing stable, subsidy-free growth.
The strength of the rooftop sector is evident, with 369MW of onsite solar installed in 2021 – the highest total in six years – when 869MW of capacity was built. Although 2015’s total is higher, there were significant subsidies available at the time, while new growth in the rooftop sector since then is fully subsidy-free.
High energy prices have helped stimulate the rooftop market, with commercial energy buyers installing onsite solar to protect themselves against the volatility of buying electricity based on fossil fuels. Instead, they produce their power from solar – lowering costs and providing more certainty for their operations.
In total, there is now more than 5GW of residential, commercial and industrial rooftop solar capacity installed in the UK.
The figures suggest a burgeoning solar industry in the UK, as business customers and homeowners turn to the renewable technology to save money on their energy bills – which have skyrocketed due to the increased costs of the gas used in power generation.
The impact of near-term policy developments is also expected to increase the take up of solar power in the coming year.
- The Future Homes Standard will impose new building regulations that come into force this year and should lead to a significant increase in solar installed on new homes.
- The government has also pledged to end unfair tax treatment for businesses installing onsite solar renewable energy generation.
- And last week saw the announcement of annual auctions for wholesale solar power.
These are solar trade association, Solar Energy UK’s policy goals and have been welcomed by the industry, which is gearing up to meet anticipated increased demand.
Solar Energy UK Chief Executive 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.”
“The UK solar industry is ready to meet the challenge of supplying this demand, and we call on the government to match the ambition of the market. Setting a deployment target of 40GW 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.”
As the UK begins to decarbonise space and water heating, the contribution that onsite solar technologies will make is also starting to be evident. There were nearly 67,000 solar PV and solar thermal installations accredited by the Microgeneration Certification Scheme in 2021, and far exceeding the number of heat pumps.
Commenting on business since the beginning of the year, Jamie Vaux, Commercial Director at Solar Energy UK member Midsummer Wholesale, said: “It is indescribably insane. We are recruiting for a dozen open roles, have new starters every week, and opened new premises that will quadruple our warehouse space last week. Our design software saw 10,000+ designs done last month.”
“We hit absolute max capacity every day, though we’re working around the clock to keep adding resources. It’s the fastest sustained growth we’ve ever seen.”