Lower costs and battery technology offer hope – but industry says it needs support
“I’m 87% self-powered today. Yesterday I was 100%,” Howard Richmond said, using an app telling him how much of his London home’s electricity consumption is from his solar panels and Tesla battery.
The retired solicitor lives in one of the 840,000-plus homes in the UK with solar panels and is part of an even more exclusive club of up to 10,000 with battery storage.
Richmond and other solar households should reap a windfall this week because of a forecast of sunshine and blue skies, which could result in renewable energy records being smashed.
Solar has grown rapidly in the UK’s power mix. A decade ago it provided virtually nothing; now it regularly generates about a fifth of the country’s electricity for hours on a summer’s day.
Electricity generation from solar panels reached a peak of 9.38GW last Friday, edging close to the record of 9.42GW. The highest percentage of power to ever come from solar was 28.5% on 6 May – and last Sunday came come close with a 27.5% share.
However, the household market has been dubbed the “solarcoaster” by industry, because of the booms and busts driven by the feed-in tariff regime, the main government support scheme, which started in 2010.
Those incentives were slashed dramatically at the start of 2016, largely killing the financial attraction for householders. Installations plummeted and companies folded.
Next April the scheme closes entirely and ministers are yet to signal that it will be replaced.
Read more: The Guardian