Roll on grid parity

Date 16th Jun 2009

Solar Power

Up until now, Britain's progress towards renewable energy has been all mouth and no trousers - loads of chat, but very little substance. Greenpeace just published a report showing just how weak government back-up for its lofty rhetoric has actually been: the UK is third from bottom in a league table of renewable energy across Europe, with only 1.3% of our energy coming from renewable sources in 2005. In 1995, the figure was 1%. So that's a 0.3% increase in ten years. Given that the UK has the best wind, wave and tidal resources in all of Europe, this half-baked performance is a truly damning inditement of UK renewable energy policy over the last decade.

This picture might just be about to change however, with the introduction of a new set of feed-in tariffs, which have been used successfully by dozens of other countries who are now well ahead of us in the renewables stakes.

The most important thing to come out of the strong support from MPs for feed-in tariffs is that they will bring 'grid parity' tantalisingly close. Grid parity is the point at which renewable energy becomes as cheap as electricty from conventional power stations. From that moment onwards, the rationale for installing new non-renewable power generation infrastructure disappears completely, and demand for renewable energy becomes effectively infinite. 

Amazingly, reports suggest Italy's solar photo-voltaic (PV) generation may reach grid parity as early as next year, with Britain not too far behind at 3-5 years away. Grid parity will change everything for the entire power generation sector, and will signal an historic turning point in the transition to a decarbonised economy. The sooner it comes, the better for everyone.

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