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Solar could provide 4% of UK power by 2020

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Solar power could be responsible for providing four per cent of the UK’s electricity by 2020 thanks to the plunging costs of solar panels

According to revised government estimates, solar sources will produce 14GW of power by 2020 - up from 5GW at the end of 2014 when around 1.5 per cent of the UK’s annual electricity was being provided by solar power.

In recent years the price of photovoltaic panels has reduced by around 70 per cent with subsidies and cheap imports from China creating a mass market. The EU already made moves to stop the market being flooded by cheap imports from China, when it introduced anti-dumping duties on all imports of solar panels from the country last year (AJ 06.06.13).

The revised estimate came as the government made changes to allow large installations – around the size of a football pitch – to be installed on commercial buildings without planning permission.

Yesterday (25 March) secretary of state for communities and local government, Eric Pickles, announced that the government would increase the permitted development threshold for rooftop installations from 50KW to 1MW.

The change was widely welcomed by the industry.

The Renewable Energy Association’s chief executive Nina Skorupska said ‘It will make it much easier for factories, farms, hospitals, bus stations and other commercial buildings to generate their own sustainable electricity while also saving themselves money and resources.

‘Solar installed on commercial buildings has the potential to generate significant amounts of clean electricity, yet it is a considerably underdeveloped area, and the rigidity of the planning system has long been a major barrier to its progress.

She added: ‘Increasing the threshold before a full planning application is required for a solar installation is a simple but effective step which will lift the shackles from the sector, and will help developers avoid uncertainty in terms of degression of feed-in tariff rates.’

David Pickup, a business analyst at the Solar Trades Association, added: ‘Getting planning permission is an extra hoop to jump through, and we are delighted that this is one more barrier to getting solar on roofs that has been removed.

‘We told DECC and DCLG that the lack of permitted development was an issue more than a year and half ago and that if they want to see more solar on roofs – which is a central part of the Solar PV Strategy – then this would be an easy fix. It is great to see they have listened and actioned it.

‘Extending the threshold from 50KW to 1MW is a boost for commercial solar. So many warehouses, factories and offices could save money on their energy bills by having solar PV on their roofs. However, there isn’t enough room for this market to grow before the Feed-in Tariffs drops to zero, killing the market completely.’

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