Big Rise in Solar Energy Use Predicted

By the end of the decade the government has predicted up to 4% of the UK's electricity will be solar powered.

Energy secretary Ed Davey said the plummeting cost of solar panels has caused the government to revise its forecast for solar energy use.

He added that this had contributed to the government decision to end most subsides for large-scale solar this month, however the solar industry has said the cuts are a mistake and would prevent it from competing with fossil fuels.

In the past few years the price of solar panels has fallen by 70% as subsidies in many countries had created a mass market.

This prompted the UK government to withdraw subsidies from large-scale solar farms from the end of March, which has in turn, created a temporary solar boom as firms race to connect to the grid in the upcoming days.

The Solar Trades Association said as much new capacity has been installed in the first few months of this year as in the whole of 2014.

After April however, it expects installations to fall 80% as most firms will not be able to compete.

A spokeswoman for the association Leone Green said: "We need subsidies for another few years - maybe five - before we can compete with fossil fuels in the UK.

"Only 35% of the cost of solar is the price of the panels - the majority cost is the installation and that will only come down if we have a large and thriving competitive industry in the UK.

"The government's decision to pull out subsidies is an own goal - it will delay the moment when solar can compete with fossil fuels."

Mr Davey said however that recent tenders for energy contracts among different types of renewable energy companies showed that solar was ready to compete, and added that he was delighted with the plummeting cost of solar power.

He said: "This is wonderful for humanity.

"There are 300 million Indians without electricity… the effects in sub-Saharan Africa will be dramatic.

"Solar power will do to energy what mobile phones did for communication and markets."

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