The sun holds the answers

Share |

9 September 2011, Nuclear, Solar, Wind

oilandgasobserver archive

According to Bloomberg, in a report to be published by the International Energy Agency, it is estimated that solar could provide most of global power demand and half of all energy needs by 2060. Furthermore, Sven Teske, a contributing author to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change's recent report on renewable energies, expects solar grid parity by 2017 across the EU, and HSBC says that the cost of solar cells has fallen by 70% since 2008, which has been aided by a fall in the spot prices of high-grade silicon.

Grid parity in the near future is also predicted by the European Photovoltaic Association, which says that solar PV "can in the right circumstances be competitive with grid electricity in Italy by 2013 and in France, Germany, Spain and the UK by 2020." It is little wonder then that Good Energy has increased the amount of solar power in its portfolio, so that solar now generates a third of its total production over the year. Good Energy says that the sun often shines when the wind does not blow and vice versa, making the two energy sources excellent complements for one another.

Solar becomes even more attractive when rising fossil fuel prices are considered. Overall, the UK has the potential to supply 30% of its power needs from solar, according to the Solar Trade Association, and the Desertec Foundation says that "within six hours deserts receive more energy from the sun than humankind consumes within a year." Given the enormous potential of solar it is surprising that there is not more of a rush into the sector within the UK.

However, government support schemes are vital to the industry in order to increase production volumes so that the learning effects and economies of scale continue to drive down costs. It does not help that so many European governments have slashed feed-in tariffs (FITs) for solar. For example, the UK has slashed FITs for large-scale solar by 70% for plants over 50kW, which many predict could spell the end for UK large-scale plants. Furthermore, solar does not even appear in the department of energy and climate change's Renewable Energy Roadmap.

It can only be hoped that the Renewable Obligation banding review will make up for the government's neglect of such a promising industry. Solar UK suggests that in the short term solar Renewable Obligation Certificates (ROCs) need to be raised from two ROCs/MWh to three to four ROCs/MWh to give solar the boost it needs. Otherwise, as with everything else in the UK, it will have to be bought from overseas at a later date.

Source: Datamonitor

More Nuclear, Solar, Wind Commentary

Recent commentary