ROC cut hits UK PV additions

PV installations in the UK were hit hard in the second quarter of 2013 by a degression in the amount of Renewable Obligation Certificates (ROCs) for large ground-mount installations. 

Overall installations in the UK dropped to 282MW during the second quarter, down from 520MW during the first quarter, according to market researcher NPD Solarbuzz.

In April, the amount of support given to large ground-mount projects fell to 1.6 ROCs per MWh, a significant adjustment from the prior level of 2 ROCs per MWh.

The 2 ROC level, alongside cheap Chinese modules, was responsible for sparking a solar boom in Britain that caught the government flatfooted.

The first quarter of a given year is traditionally the slowest for PV installations in many advanced solar markets, meaning that the drop in demand during the second quarter may have been even more intense than the numbers would initially suggest.

Finlay Colville, vice president at NPD Solarbuzz, says that concerns about the supply of Chinese modules in the run-up to the recent provisional resolution to the EU-China solar spat may also have dented second-quarter demand. 

From next April, ground-mount PV projects will be eligible for just 1.4 ROCs per MWh – tapering off to 1.2 ROCs in the final year before the entire system is switched over to Contracts for Difference under the UK’s Electricity Market Reform package. 

Significant disagreement persists within the UK solar sector as to how intensely that ROC degression, and the switch to CfDs, affects the industry’s growth prospects.

Still, even after the degression and drop off, there are many encouraging signs for PV in Britain – including the ground-mount segment – and the UK market is likely to remain one of the most exciting in Europe.

A total of 106 ground-mount arrays larger than 1MW were installed in the UK during the first half of the year, including eight larger than 10MW – and the country’s largest project to date, Lark Energy’s 34MW plant at a former Royal Air Force base in the Midlands.

The location of that plant is something of an outlier, with the vast majority of large projects installed in southern England.

The 802MW of total PV capacity installed in the UK during the first half of 2013 is equivalent to more than 80% of what the country installed during the whole of 2012 – itself a breakout year. 

Half of the 2.71GW of PV capacity now up and running in the UK is installed on residential rooftops, with another 28% at ground-mount arrays, and the remainder on commercial rooftops. 1.5GW of ground-mount capacity has been taken through the planning and application stage and is awaiting finance. 

The strength of that ground-mount pipeline “will ensure that the UK retains a healthy top-10 market ranking for 2013 and beyond”.