While most of the world seems to be embracing solar technology and are installing more capacity, the UK has seen the Government reduce subsidies in the shape of Feed in Tariffs. One place where solar deployment certainly appeared to be faltering was London – a location that saw sustained growth prior to the cutting of subsidies in 2016.
Statistics released by the Department of Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy show that the capital has been effected by severe under-deployment of solar up to December 2016. This showed that an estimated 12 GW of capacity was installed but only 90.9 MW of this was to be found in the Capital. While this doesn’t look that bad on the surface, once you take into account that 85.6 MW was actually installed in 2015, it means only 5.3 MW was installed during the whole of 2016, it marks a massive change in deployment.
Areas in the South East and West deployed 3.8 GW and London fell far behind the North East which traditionally has the lowest levels of deployment. For the UK’s capital it presents a major challenge.
While it’s a worrying turn of events, things are about to change. Mayor Sadiq Khan is introducing reverse solar auctions to promote the growth of projects within communities. According to the Deputy Mayor, Shirley Rodrigues:
“It’s something we’ve seen tested in Norwich and we want to do it in London on a much bigger scale. Whoever is the most competitive plus whatever else we might set as a criteria, you will get that package of work around London.”
What is a Reverse Solar Auction?
They allow multiple buyers to gather their resources together and compete for one contract. The Mayor is also hoping to relax legislation to encourage new installations around the Capital, with a view to actually doubling the solar capacity by the end of the next decade. In addition, Khan envisages grants that will be made available to communities to test the potential of solar batteries which could create further innovation and growth.
In a recent statement, Khan stated:
“I’ve set out my plans to improve London’s environment by fighting pollution, tackling waste and promoting cleaner energy so we can make London a healthier city that adapts to the impacts of climate change.”
The Mayor is attempting to make London the first ‘National Park City’ and proposes protecting and developing green spaces across London. It’s all part of his aim to reduce the amount of pollution and create a greener city that has renewables at its heart. London may also follow the route blazed by cities like New York and actively promote green roofs. This and the latest solar proposals were introduced in the Environment Strategy Consultation which is expected to cost some £9 million.
Reverse solar auctions are starting to become a popular way to get projects underway. They’ve been successfully used in New York and Norway (where the overall costs were greatly reduced) and has been tested in Norwich in the UK as a pilot for roll out in London and other cities. If the plans come to fruition, it could see a resurgence for solar in the UK’s capital, one that could provide a model for other regions to follow.
After the Government slashed Feed in Tariffs at the beginning of 2016, many feared the worse for the solar industry. The fact is that we’ve had to find new and innovative ways of raising the money for projects and bringing them forward. While the rest of the world is investing heavily in solar, the UK cannot afford to be left behind.
If the plan works out, the good news is that we could see more solar installed and the market starting to recover and thrive once more. Perhaps things are beginning to look brighter than we all thought.