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Solar Trade Association takes issue with National Grid’s solar forecast

'Low-ball' estimates on UK's solar market do not reflect reality, industry group states.

The Solar Trade Association is calling for the National Grid to revise its predictions for solar power in coming decades. In forecasts published by the grid operator this week, the National Grid’s statistics on current and future solar arrays are said to fall far below other estimates. Naturally, the Solar Trade Association believes the numbers need to be revised upwards.

“It is frustrating that both the Government and the National Grid are basing important decisions on outdated data,” said Paul Barwell, chief executive of the Solar Trade Association. “This undermines what the solar industry has achieved so far and risks holding back solar’s potential.”

According to Barwell, the number of solar installations in place is higher than in official statistics. On top of that, he believes that with the cost of solar falling dramatically, solar power will likely become cheap enough to compete without public subsidy by the end of the decade. But that’s only if it has a stable policy framework. “Using accurate data is an essential part of that,” Barwell stresses.

Off the mark

The National Grid’s two green scenarios predict only 7.5GW and 8.5GW of installed solar capacity by 2020 [1], whereas even the Department for Energy and Climate Change is predicting 12GW [2], and the Minister’s ambition is for 20GW, which the industry fully supports. Even the National Grid’s figure on what is in place today2.3GW [3] – is being challenged as not reflecting the reality on the ground.

Analysis undertaken by the Solar Trade Association shows that solar power will match onshore wind on price by around 2017/18. The industry has also shown that in conjunction with storage, it will be able to compete with nuclear power well before the new nuclear plants currently being planned come online.

The Solar Trade Association’s analysis is consistent with mainstream analysis, including, for example, research conducted by the IEA [4], Fraunhofer [5], EPIA [6], McKinsey [7], Deutsche Bank [8] and Bloomberg [9].
The IPCC report on climate change mitigation from earlier this year makes clear that solar is the world’s fastest growing energy technology with the best ‘technical potential’.

“Solar could — one day in the future — meet a third of the UK’s electricity needs from south-facing roofs and facades alone,” Barwell stated. “The National Grid needs to recognise solar’s huge potential to generate a sizeable chunk of the UK’s power."

For the UK National Grid's part, the utility has invited the Solar Trade Association to join a discussion group regarding solar forecasts in the country, adding that it "welcomes input on the matter."  

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Energy efficiency  •  Energy infrastructure  •  Photovoltaics (PV)  •  Policy, investment and markets  •  Solar electricity