What you need to know

The UK solar PV market only started to emerge properly in 2010 but grew rapidly between 2011 and 2015. Since 2015, the government has introduced major cutbacks for solar PV support schemes, including the early closure of the RO scheme to solar PV (mainly affecting ground-mounted installs), the exclusion of solar PV from CfD auctions and a drastic reduction in FiT rates (affecting rooftop installs) in early 2016, followed by the closure of the scheme at the end of March 2019. This has caused solar PV installations to plummet and significant fluctuations in deployment, with peaks in deployment evident just prior to the various deadlines of government support schemes. Unsurprisingly, this has posed significant challenges to the industry.

With all government support now removed, the UK solar PV market is moving into a post-subsidy phase. While market conditions will remain challenging in the short term, there is optimism for strong growth to return to the subsidy-free UK solar PV market, reflecting continuing falling costs, innovation in solar-plus-storage systems and the emergence of innovative finance and business models.

Covered in this Report

For the purposes of this Report, Mintel has used the following definitions:

The Report covers three main markets for solar PV in the UK: domestic, building-mounted (commercial and non-domestic buildings) and ground-mounted (also referred to as large-scale or utility-scale).

Solar power is the conversion of sunlight into electricity, either directly using photovoltaics (PV) or indirectly using concentrated solar power (CSP). Concentrated solar power systems use lenses or mirrors and tracking systems to focus a large area of sunlight into a small beam. Photovoltaics convert light into electric current using the photoelectric effect. As of 2019, there are no CSP plants in the UK and none announced, with the market monopolised by photovoltaics.

PV cells are made from layers of semi-conducting material, usually silicon. When light shines on the cell it creates an electric field across the layers. The stronger the sunshine, the more electricity is produced. Groups of cells are mounted together in panels or modules which can be mounted on a roof.

The power of a PV cell is measured in kilowatts peak (kWp), the rate at which it generates energy at peak performance in full direct sunlight during the summer. PV cells come in a variety of shapes and sizes. Most PV systems are made up of panels that fit on top of an existing roof, but solar tiles are also available.

Solar tiles are designed to be used in place of ordinary roof tiles. A system made up of solar tiles will typically cost around double an equivalent panel system, though there is a further saving on roof tiles or slates. Solar tile systems are not normally as cost-effective as panel systems, and are usually only considered where panels are not appropriate for aesthetic or planning reasons.

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