(ADPnews) - Dec 23, 2010 - Solar power companies are pinning their hopes on the emerging UK market for better 2011 sales results amid a cloudy business environment in continental Europe.
by Hristina Stoyanova
While Spain, Germany and France were reducing their feed-in-tariffs (FITs) for solar photovoltaic (PV) facilities, seeking to tame gaping public deficits, in October the UK government soothed investors' fears over cuts of renewable energy incentives, confirming its pledge to prioritize investment in green power infrastructure.
Industry players hurried up to grab a slice of the UK market.
“Every year a new market is emerging. This year, with the adopted FIT scheme, the UK market has enlivened and it will certainly register a high rise next year," Uros Merc, CEO of Slovenian PV module maker Bisol, told ADPnews in an interview last week.
“Regarding the development of the PV industry, the experience shows that the most appropriate way for stimulating it is with a FIT scheme,” Merc said.
Bisol, which targets a 100% rise in its 2011 sales from the EUR 55 million projected for this year, in November received microgeneration certification scheme (MCS) from the British Approvals Board for Telecommunications for all its products.
A green power stimulus programme, in place since this April, pays UK households or communities which have installed low-carbon electricity, solar included, for the power they generate. In order to be eligible for funding, solar projects must use panels that have MCS certification, installed by MCS-accredited integrators.
The MCS was expected to lead to an artificial restraint of the UK PV market, according to a study by Bonn-based market research institute EuPD Research, released in August. The rule that the FIT is only paid when MCS approved products are installed by MCS accredited installers could be seen as a major bureaucratic hurdle to be toppled by installers serving the most significant customer segment, according to a study entitled “The UK Photovoltaic Market 2010 – Tapping the Fullest Potential.”
However, more and more companies are applying for the MCS. German solar module maker Aleo Solar AG (ETR:AS1) and ET Solar Group Corp, a China-based PV system turnkey solution provider and integrated manufacturer of PV products, are also among the companies that have received the certificate.
"As an early bird in the UK PV market, ET Solar is very well poised to expand our presence and further build up customer relationships in the UK market in 2011,” ET Solar CEO Dennis She said. Earlier this month, the company announced a total of over 50 MW of contractual and framework module sales agreements with UK PV distributors and installers for 2011.
Aleo Solar maintains its own sales office in the UK and now it will start distribution of its products in the country.
Other solar power companies set foot in the UK in the last months as well.
Swiss manufacturer of solar inverters Sputnik Engineering will open its new branch office in London on 1 January 2011 to respond more flexibly to the growing UK PV market. “Sputnik Engineering is entering the market at just the right time to establish itself in the UK,” said the office’s Key Account Manager Neil Martin. “Since the introduction of the new remuneration rates in April 2010 the attractiveness of photovoltaic plants in the UK has grown enormously,” he added.
Last month, German renewable project developer Juwi Group set up a UK-based subsidiary tasked to roll out solar power plants with the capacity of over 60 MW in two years. The installations are scheduled to arise in 2011 and 2012.
"The UK currently provides excellent conditions for the solar industry; the country is becoming an attractive European market,” said Lars Falck, head of juwi Solar. Based on the promising conditions in the UK and juwi’s rich expertise in developing and implementing renewable energy projects worldwide juwi Renewable Energies Ltd expects strong growth already within the next two years.
The UK, which had been lagging behind many European countries in terms of solar power capacities, aims to achieve its 2020 target of 15% renewables in the energy used. Contribution of solar energy to the energy supply is anticipated to reach 2%, or 6 GW, by 2020 thanks to the implementation of the national FiT.