The Rise and Fall of the Solar Industry

Solar Farm

Following the closure of Mark Group and Climate Energy, a third leading solar company has  announced that it has gone into liquidation.

Howard Johns is one of Britain’s leading solar entrepreneurs, a government adviser on renewable energy and the former chairman of the Solar Trade Association. In 2002, Howard Johns set up Southern Solar, a company that has played a major role in installing solar power systems for schools, local authorities and businesses.

Earlier this month, Mr Johns announced the closure of Southern Solar, adding to an already substantial list of industry casualties.

The Rise and Fall of the Solar Industry

In the beginning the solar industry was well supported by the Government. Several grant schemes were available, including the feed-in tariff, introduced in April 2010, which allowed solar users to sell excess energy generated back to the grid.

These government benefits have allowed the industry to grow rapidly and Mr Johns reported that his Southern Solar business had doubled each year in its first decade of operation. However, drastic and unpredictable changes to government schemes, often without warning,  have made the industry difficult to manage.

In 2012, the Government's decision to drastically reduce the feed-in tariff was followed by a significant plunge in the UK solar market. Johns was forced to scale down his company, reporting a 75% decrease in his monthly sales, and he was forced to lay-off large numbers of staff in order to stay afloat.

After further government announcement to cut the feed-in-tariff for small-scale solar installations by almost 90% in January of next year, Howard Johns decided that he was fighting a losing battle and thus decided to close Southern Solar.

The Future of Solar Energy

Other industry leaders report that they too are considering redundancies and that current government changes are paving the way for further casualties within the sector.

The solar industry is close to being able to provide subsidy-free renewable energy and industry leaders are urging the Government to provide support for just another three or four years in order for it to become free of financial aid. Failure to comply could devastate the solar industry completely.

Not only will the demise of the solar sector result in countless job losses and millions of pounds worth of wasted investment, there will also be a knock-on effect on other companies within the construction industry.

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