UK solar industry consolidation expected from SEUK keynote panel

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A keynote panel comprising the heads of some of the UK’s largest solar developers have concluded that consolidation in the solar sector is inevitable as cuts to support frameworks take hold.

Lightsource chief executive Nick Boyle told Solar Energy UK 2015 visitors that in the wake of drastic cuts to the feed-in tariff that the industry would stand to shrink.

“This industry will shrink – not necessarily in terms of the boots on the ground installing panels, but in terms of the number of players. Whenever an industry goes through what we’re about to go through, you get rationalisation and consolidation,” he said.

Angus Macdonald, chief executive at British Solar Renewables, echoed Boyle’s sentiments and added that his own business’ efforts to become more integrated was key to its future. David Maguire, director at BNRG Renewables, also agreed that there would be “a lot of consolidation” owing to the lack of business capable of being done in a stifled UK market.

Macdonald also said that he foresaw “big changes” to the UK energy sector in the pipeline, with embedded generation becoming a “much bigger part”.

Belectric UK chief executive Toddington Harper also gave some insight into what he saw as the future of his business, stating that Belectric was now looking into doing “more innovative PPAs and lots of work behind the meter”.

Also up for discussion by the panel was what the future might hold for UK solar. Both Boyle and Macdonald said they were looking forward to being able to develop without the need for subsidies, which Macdonald said had created “awful deadlines” that the industry “has to get rid of”.

“We’re looking forward to when we are subsidy free. It’s hugely unpalatable when we have to have the government at the decision table,” Boyle added.

But while RegenSW chief executive Merlin Hyman said the industry had to get better at “bring[ing] the public with us”, Macdonald spoke of his fears of what might happen if solar could prove itself capable of standing on its own two feet and delivering profits.

“It does worry me the government could [make it so] we’re not on a level playing field,” Macdonald said. Maguire also agreed by raising the prospect of the government introducing taxes at higher or more restrictive rates if solar proved to be profitable, stating the same had happened to other industries that the government had tried to quell.

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