The UK solar strategy lays ground for a stable future

13 GW of new PV capacity to be installed over next five years

On 4 April 2014, the UK government released part 2 of the UK Solar Strategy, with the key message being continued support for the PV industry, but with the focus shifting away from ground-mount projects towards rooftop systems

* IHS believes that the strategy, together with prevailing investment conditions for ground-mount PV plants, will drive total UK PV installations to be in the range of 2.5-3 GW annually until 2018. In 2014, IHS expects 2.4 GW of new PV installations in the UK

* IHS' project database estimates that 922 MW of utility-scale PV projects were installed in the UK in Q1 2014, ahead of the renewable obligation certificates (ROC) banding being cut from 1.6 ROC/MWh to 1.4 ROC/MWh

* According to the IHS PV project database, the five largest system integrators installed 46% of utility-scale PV in Q1 2014, making the UK less fragmented than other European markets

IHS Analysis

The recently published second part of the UK Solar Strategy breeds optimism among participants in the UK PV market. However, the document remains vague on exact support measures to spur the commercial rooftop segment. Some key barriers are inherent in the nature of the UK real estate sector, such as the relation between tenants and owners, as pointed out in the strategy document.

IHS has raised its near-term forecasts for the UK, as the strategy document along with signs of high developer activity indicate continued growth. By 2018, IHS forecasts the UK to have 16 GW of installed PV capacity. This would put the UK on track to overshoot the government's 20 GW by 2020 ambition, which may result in a revised support environment. Based on the 922 MW of utility-scale systems that IHS estimates were installed in Q1 2014, IHS forecasts utility-scale installations to peak in 2014 at a total of 1.5 GW. From 2015 onwards the ground-mount segment is set to decline gradually as the incentive scheme changes and the focus shifts towards commercial rooftops.

The government's explicit focus on rooftop PV systems addresses the public concerns for the use of land, which have haunted the on-shore wind sector. In counties like Cornwall, Devon and Somerset, where IHS estimates that 25% of the ground-mount PV capacity is installed, the impact of PV on the landscape may lead to rising concerns. The installation of PV systems on commercial roofs, on the other hand, faces little risk of opposition.

As for the competitive landscape, IHS considers the UK less fragmented than other European PV markets. Based on IHS' PV project database, the five largest EPC companies installed 46% of the utility-scale projects in Q1 2014. These five were Conergy, British Solar Renewables, Martifer Solar, Grupotec and Isolux Corsan. The largest investor remains Lightsource Renewable Energy, owning 190 MW of the utility-scale projects installed so far in 2014. In wake of the solar strategy, these companies will need to successfully address the rooftop market in order to retain market share after 2015. In fact, Lightsource Renewable Energy has already announced the opening of a rooftop PV division highlighting the expected change in PV demand in the UK and the need for companies to diversify away from ground-mount projects in order to remain successful.


With 1.3 GW of PV installed in 2013, the UK has emerged as one of the most dynamic PV markets in Europe. The utility-scale segment is dominating growth due to the Renewable Obligations Certificates (ROC) scheme, where each MWh generates a pre-determined number of tradable ROCs. In Q2 2014, the banding for new PV systems dropped from 1.6 ROC/MWh to 1.4 ROC/MWh. The next banding reduction, to 1.2 ROC/MWh, will be on 1 April 2015.

The UK government has presented a national solar strategy, targeting up to 20 GW of PV by 2020.

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