2012 has been an action-packed year, especially for PV. We had the ups and downs of Feed-in Tariffs (FiTs), which started in late 2011. Although confidence took several knocks, things now appear to be stabilising and many in the industry think that as well as the inevitable slow-down and squeezed margins, the overall effect also has some positive aspects. For example, some of the companies who entered the market for quick profits, but with little technical knowledge or experience of the sector, have now departed as rapidly as they arrived, leaving space for those who are in it for the long haul to refocus on building an industry committed to quality and customer service.
There has been the buzz of Green Deal and its associated cash-back incentives across the industry – a new paradigm in support mechanisms – mostly aimed at energy efficiency measures, but theoretically also available for renewables projects. One thing is sure – a lot of time and money has been spent in the private sector gearing up for the take up in 2013 and beyond. Then there is the Renewable Heat Incentive (RHI) – another world first – and the associated Renewable Heat Premium Payment (RHPP) cash-for-monitoring offer. BRE is helping DECC with the installation of around 1200 sets of monitoring equipment on heat pumps on dwellings. The aim is to improve the understanding of system design and installation factors which affect the overall annual performance (seasonal performance factor). This information will then be used to inform policy such as the domestic RHI and Green Deal.
Let us hope that all these efforts prove to be big drivers for the fledgling renewables sector. Either way, it seems fair to say that the UK is trying out some innovative policies, and industry is jumping through hoops to make it all work.
Predictions for next year? Hopefully, we will see a large increase in the numbers of low carbon heat technologies being fitted, hand-in-hand with sensible energy efficiency measures. It would be great to see better integration of system controls for multiple technologies (the new MCS heat pump installer standard actually requires integrated controls for systems with auxiliary heat sources). We will have a National Solar Centre, which will be a repository of robust information on all things solar, DC isolators will no longer catch fire and – ever the optimist – building-integrated PV will start to become better understood in the construction industry! Have a good Christmas & happy renewable year.