The Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy has been accused of publishing inaccurate data on solar power deployment and urged to switch to a system that will better aid the government’s net-zero carbon emission goals.
Industry lobby group the Solar Trade Association said the way the department currently recorded the contribution photovoltaic power generation makes to the National Grid used a methodology that relied on subsidy schemes no longer in operation, such as the feed-in tariff.
According to the STA, the department’s monthly “UK Solar Deployment: By Capacity” figures also miss out significant chunks of solar power contribution to the grid because some larger-scale schemes are also not captured in the data’s methodology.
STA chief exec Chris Hewett called on the department to stop publishing figures that underplayed solar power’s contribution to the nation’s energy usage and adopt a dataset recommended by the Energy Data Taskforce.
“Understanding the exact make-up of our energy system is a vital step on the road to net zero,” he said. “The energy sector will not be able to fully decarbonise unless it is certain of which forms of generation are contributing to the grid.
“We need all assets to be registered and publicly catalogued as set out under the recommendations of the EDA. Until this happens, BEIS must cease publishing statistics which are missing significant portions of capacity such as large-scale commercial and industrial rooftop photovoltaic installations, as these are too large to be captured by Microgeneration Certification Scheme registration.”
The most recent set of BEIS solar deployment statistics said there was 13,275.5 megawatts of installed solar capacity across the UK as of last month, based on a count brought together from more than 1 million different installations. It said the generating capacity was a 1.7% increase on the figure from August 2018.
Other measures in the dataset indicated a 14% year-on-year decrease in the number of new photovoltaic installations comparing August 2019 with August 2018. The BEIS commentary said the decrease was due to the end of the feed-In tariff scheme at the end of March this year.
The BEIS statistics set out the data on which the deployment figures are based and the department accepts that the snapshot does not currently include unsubsidised solar installations with a capacity of below 1 megawatt that are not on the MCS database.
Additionally, the dataset carries a warning that the figures are “highly provisional” and “likely to be revised upwards”.
A BEIS spokesperson said the department was “committed to transparency and providing accurate data” and was working with regulator Ofgem on the Energy Data Taskforce’s recommendations.
“We are clear that our statistics do not include all microgeneration,” they said. “We continue to work with the industry with a view to changing this.”
The department said it did not currently have access to complete small-scale unsubsidised renewables data and recognised this as an area for development.
“We are looking at options to improve the coverage of our statistics in the short to medium term and will continue to engage with industry to do that,” the spokesperson said.