Solar PV capacity installed on UK rooftops reached its highest level for six years in 2021 as firms moved to protect themselves from volatile energy prices, which could continue for several years.
In total, 2021 saw 730MW of solar PV capacity installed around the UK - representing a huge increase of 36 per cent on 2020 figures despite the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Growth in rooftop solar was particularly strong with annual installation figures reaching the highest level since 2015, when significant subsidies were available.
Commenting on the figures, industry association Solar Energy UK described 2021 as “potentially the most significant year to date for the UK solar industry”. The organisation said high gas prices had helped to stimulate commercial organisations to install solar on-site to protect themselves against the volatility of buying power from the grid.
The role of on-site solar generation is also becoming more important as businesses begin to switch heating and vehicles to electric.
Solar industry order books ‘overflowing’
Solar Energy UK’s chief executive, Chris Hewett, said: “2021 was the year the UK’s solar industry came of age. We are now seeing stable, sustained growth across the sector, with order books overflowing.
“As fossil fuel energy bills soar, rooftop solar in particular is now very popular. More and more consumers and businesses are investing in solar because they know it is a proven way to cut their energy bills and carbon emissions. It is also now a cheap way to charge electric vehicles and decarbonise heating.”
No end in sight for volatile energy prices
According to recent research from the International Energy Agency (IEA), the global surge in demand for energy could potentially bring another three years of volatility until energy prices stabilise. Separate research from energy consultancy Cornwall Insight suggests that conditions could take even longer to stabilise in the UK.
“With all the focus of the recent energy crisis being on wholesale prices for the short-term and the imminent price caps, you would be forgiven for thinking that volatile energy markets are simply a problem for the present, not the future,” explained Tom Edwards, senior modelling consultant at Cornwall Insight.
“As our research shows, without significant changes to the way we procure, supply, and consume energy, we are likely to see many years of boom-and-bust energy pricing in the UK.”