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Solar at a crossroads

Published: 13 June 2012 - Joe Bush

Edwin Koot, chief executive of Solarplaza, has claimed that the UK solar industry is at a crossroads in its development, stating that it’s now up to the industry players, and not the government, to shape the UK market for solar PV.

“The UK solar industry needs to reflect on what happened over the past 18 months. It can either throw in the towel or realise that there is a solar future - even without Feed-in-Tariffs - and fight for its future,” said Koot.

“Understandably, there’s a lot of resentment in the industry about how the coalition government has handled changes to the Feed-in-Tariffs. For some installers, it’s been too much to bear and after the 2011 ‘solar feeding frenzy’, the drastic cuts have led to job cuts and worse still, businesses going bust.

“Today, most installers agree that in pure financial terms solar is still a good bet for domestic projects. System prices have fallen in line with the tariffs, and the return on investment is similar to what it was when the tariffs were at their high point. A return of eight to ten percent is impossible to match with any other guaranteed investment. Yet orders have dropped off a cliff. Why?

“For the simple reason that the public has lost confidence and is confused. There has been so much negative media coverage about the Feed-in-Tariffs that installer’s phones have stopped ringing. And unfortunately, the solar industry has to share the blame for that.

“The Netherlands has a thriving solar market today, yet the government stopped all subsidies earlier this year. The consensus is that stability with no tariffs is preferable to the confusion of ‘stop-go’ subsidies. There are of course other factors at play, not least that green initiatives have captured the Dutch public’s imagination.

“So what can we do in the UK? The industry needs to work together, to cooperate more, to ‘grow the pie’ before they fight over it. It needs a concerted effort to change public opinion… a ‘Solar Spring’, if you like. I believe there is still an appetite among UK citizens to reduce the stranglehold of the ‘Big 6’ energy companies.

“People want solutions to rising energy prices and fuel poverty. People believe in the seriousness of climate change, despite what Daily Mail journalists write. Solar power is not the only solution to these problems, but it’s a start.

“We need to re-build confidence in the long term future of the market, and share that with the public. We need innovative thinking, new business models, hard work and investment in promoting all of the good things about solar - not just the cash returns. To achieve that, first we need to bring the industry together.”

Koot will be chairing The Solar Future conference in London on 26th June. Attendees can take advantage of a 2-for-1 booking offer at www.thesolarfuture.co.uk/registration.



 
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