Solar PV market in chaos as consumers rush to meet Tariff deadline

Published:  24 November, 2011

UK: The solar PV market has recently been described as 'chaotic' as consumers rush to get in before the Government’s reduced feed-in tariff (FiT) comes into force in mid-December.

The warning is a result of unprecedented short-term demand for solar PV installations as consumers attempt to install before the Government’s 12 December reference date, after which installations will only be eligible for the reduced 21p tariff. Plumbers' merchant PTS is reporting a huge surge in enquiries and sales in the last two weeks since the Government’s announcement.

“The Government’s reduction to the FiT has created a short-term, unmanaged boom in sales and enquiries across the industry,” says Ian Stares, product group manager for renewable technologies at PTS. “On the face of it, this might seem like good news, but the surge is possibly not manageable demand, it feels like a chaotic surge.”

Mr Stares says that the impact of the Government’s FiT announcement is having an enormous impact right along the supply chain. “Our worry is that the Government has potentially created a boom bust scenario that will possibly have an impact on jobs. We are in a short-term boom at the moment, but it is putting severe strain on the supply of solar PV equipment from manufacturers. My concern is what will happen after December 12th? The market could fall off a cliff overnight. If the Government could see to extend the deadline that would certainly help matters.”

There are also increasing concerns that the rush to get in before the December deadline could lead consumers to install lower quality equipment. “Restricted supply of quality solar PV equipment from reputable merchants will inevitably lead consumers to go for low quality alternatives, which cannot deliver the same electricity generating capacity,” says Mr Stares.

However, Mr Stares has some sympathy for the Government’s position. “I understand that the Coalition wanted to put a stop to rent-a-roof installations, but in the process has created massive instability in the market. Rather than a draconian cut, a managed reduction over time would possibly have been a much more sensible route to take.”

He continued: “After this boom, I would have thought the priority now must be to bring calmness and structure back to the market to ensure that both the consumer and industry confidence in solar PV technology is not irreparably damaged.”

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