Dark clouds on horizon for renewable energy, despite new solar high
During the sunniest part of today 15 per cent of our electricity needs were being met by solar power alone, according to industry estimates, Channel 4 News can reveal.
It’s the most electricity we’ve ever generated from solar, and reveals just how many new panels have been installed on rooftops and in fields across Britain in the last two years.
But the boom in solar is predicted to end sharply after changes to the subsidy scheme for the technology came into force at the end of April.
Now all but a few of the largest-scale solar farms – the kind you see filling farmer’s fields – have lost subsidy support.
And despite the appointment of green-leaning Amber Rudd as energy secretary, there is uncertainty about how much support there might be for smaller scale solar too.
Compared to other power sources like natural gas, solar is expensive.
However industry body the Solar Trade Association, said given the right support now, the cost of rooftop systems could come down enough by 2020 for it to be profitable for installers without a subsidy.
It’s not just solar that has been booming.
According to government figures renewable electricity generation overall broke all previous records last year reaching 22 per cent of electricity production for the first time.
At times last winter more electricity was coming from renewables and nuclear than was being produced from burning coal.
During the dark days of winter nearly all of that electricity was coming from wind turbines.
However, in their pre-election manifesto the Conservatives threatened to end support for onshore wind power, which makes up a big part of that total.
“We urge the new administration to confirm the importance of onshore wind as an essential part of our electricity mix,” said Maria McCaffery, chief executive of Renewable UK the wind industry trade body.
If the subsidy scheme were maintained, she added, “onshore wind could be the cheapest of all power sources by 2020.”