U.K. Says Solar Power Crucial to Meeting Renewable-Energy Goals

The U.K., which had the wettest summer in 100 years, added solar power to a list of technologies deemed crucial to meeting renewable-energy and carbon-reduction targets.

Solar photovoltaic power is on a list of nine technologies, which also includes marine and offshore wind energy, the Department of Energy and Climate Change said today in an e-mailed statement. The U.K. aims to cut emissions by 34 percent in 2020 from 1990 and has a European Union goal to get 15 percent of all energy from renewables by then.

The U.K. offers incentives for clean-energy projects as it seeks to replace aging power stations without adding to polluting emissions. Solar capacity increased more than fivefold to 1.4 gigawatts in the year through June after costs fell 50 percent, the department said in an update to its Renewable Energy Roadmap first published in July 2011. Total electricity output from renewables rose 27 percent in the period, it said.

“Renewable energy is increasingly powering the U.K.’s grid, and the economy too,” Energy and Climate Change Secretary Ed Davey said in the statement. “I am determined that we get ahead in the global race on renewables and build on the big-money investments we’ve seen.”

Renewable-energy companies announced plans for U.K. investments totaling 12.7 billion pounds ($20.5 billion) from April 2011 through July 2012, DECC said. That spending could support as many as 22,800 jobs, it said.

Gloomy Skies

Solar is luring investments even as Britain is lashed by heavy rain. Figures from the U.K.’s Met Office show that 370.7 millimeters (14.6 inches) of rain fell in June, July and August this year, making it the wettest summer since 1912. The European Photovoltaic Industry Association has said Britain has the fourth-most gloomy skies, only sunnier than Sweden, Norway and Finland among a survey of 20 nations. Average solar irradiation is about 6 percent lower than in Germany, the biggest PV market.

To meet the EU renewables goal, which covers transport, heating and power, the government seeks to get 30 percent of electricity from renewables by 2020.

Last week, the energy department said 11.7 percent of U.K. power came from renewables in the third quarter. In 2011, renewable energy accounted for 3.8 percent of all energy, up from 3.2 percent in 2010, the department said.

Subsidy Cuts

Solar installations have surged even as the government cut subsidies for the technology in April and again in July. The U.K. estimates capacity may reach as much as 20 gigawatts by 2020, according to today’s document.

“The ability to deliver further reductions in the installed costs of solar PV will determine the level of sector growth,” the department said. The government will outline a solar strategy next year, it said.

The other technologies classed as “key” by the department are: biomass electricity, onshore wind, biomass heat, ground-source and air-source heat pumps, and renewable transport. When the initial list was published last year, it was criticized by solar-industry lobbyists and executives including Good Energy Group Plc Chief Executive Officer Juliet Davenport for excluding solar power.

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