Renewable Installations Steady in U.K. With Costs 10% Lower

  • Independent renewables investment fell last year, says report
  • Investment fell while new capacity remained at 2.4 gigawatts

Independent renewable-power producers installed the same amount of capacity in 2015 as year earlier at 10 percent of the cost, according to new figures by power utility SmartestEnergy Ltd.

A combination of independent developers, businesses, farmers, landowners and waste disposal operators invested about 376 million pounds ($544 million) in building new clean energy capacity last year, down from about 418 million pounds a year earlier, according to the report.

Independent developers accounted for 77 percent of all investment in new renewable energy capacity in the U.K. last year, with traditional electricity suppliers building the rest, the report showed, which uses technology costs from the Department of Energy and Climate Change, assuming costs in the year of project commissioning.

These so-called “energy entrepreneurs” now supply 7.6 percent of the U.K.’s power, up from 4.2 percent in 2012, the report found.

Despite the drop in investment last year, about 2.4 gigawatts of new capacity was added in 2015, roughly the same as a year earlier, the figures show. The fall in prices may be caused by a surge in new solar generation, which saw capacity grow 83 percent with 696 new projects added.

Solar developers rushed to take advantage of the Renewables Obligation Certificate subsidy system, which closed in April, said SmartestEnergy.

“These projects provide over 2 gigawatts of the total 2.41 gigawatts capacity in 2015 and with solar being the cheapest technology this represents a lower-cost technology mix,” said Mike Shirley, head of marketing for SmartestEnergy.

By contrast, new wind energy capacity grew by just 7 percent, with 263 megawatts added in 2015 compared to 690 megawatts a year earlier, the report showed. The slowdown was attributed to tougher conditions for securing planning permission and grid access.

Independent generators now face “a crisis” because wholesale power prices in the U.K. fell by 20 percent last year, reducing the value of the electricity, according to Robert Groves, chief executive officer of SmartestEnergy. This is coupled with a government decision to end subsidies for solar farms and reduce support for rooftop panels.

“Government must ensure that the right framework is in place to ensure continued investment in building our renewables capacity,” he said.