Market forces

With demand set to rise, the outlook for the UK PV market throughout 2014 looks bright, says Steve Pester, BRE

With the jumps in energy prices that we seem to routinely experience these days, many people are at last starting to feel that the connection between renewables and long term energy affordability is real (although not all politicians appear to have made that connection). This is good news for the industry as it means that there is an increasingly important driver to buy systems for reasons of independence from the energy companies, rather than merely for FIT/RHI income (some people will also buy because they actually care about the planet too!).

The much-awaited domestic RHI will certainly boost the renewable heat market, but there are some interesting little conundrums to be unravelled – for example, is it best to fit a solar thermal system or a bit more PV and an energy diverter to direct any surplus energy into a hot water tank? Issues such as this will no doubt be hotly debated at Ecobuild in March.

The UK is now seen from abroad as one of the top markets for PV and I believe it will continue to strengthen in 2014, with a stable demand for domestic systems and an improving market for medium scale systems. But with any shift towards commercial roof scale systems, it will be essential to ensure that high quality systems are installed in order to maintain the confidence of the market – since the FITs came in we’ve seen quite a few horrors at the domestic scale, so the establishment of a good quality process for systems larger than 50kW would now be very helpful.

The National Solar Centre, having moved premises to the Eden Project, is now actively setting up its outdoor test site – we’ll be running side-by-side comparisons of PV modules and inverters, refining the current thinking on the effects of orientation and tilt of mountings, as well as testing the effectiveness of various cleaning regimes. Its early days, but we look forward to bringing forth some new publications (you may have already seen the Planning guide) and welcoming visitors at some point during 2014.