Solar is leading the charge for renewable energy

The rate at which we are switching from dependence on coal, gas and oil may not be fast enough to satisfy climate activists, but new analysis from the International Energy Agency (IEA), published last week shows that global investment in clean energy is now outstripping investment in fossil fuel production.

According to the IEA, for every dollar invested in fossil fuels, about $1.70 is being channelled into clean energy. Five years ago, the ratio was one-to-one. Globally, the annual investment in renewable energy has risen by nearly 25 per cent since 2021 compared to a 15 per cent rise for fossil fuels.

High fossil fuel prices and security of supply, exacerbated by the conflict in Ukraine and given that there is only so much oil in the ground, mean more political support from governments for clean technologies like solar. The energy we have used for most of the last century is changing and consumers now have a better understanding that carbon-based fuels need to be phased out faster. Our increasingly electric energy future needs to come from smart, affordable, renewable sources.

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Having been involved in solar energy industry for over 30 years, it comes as no surprise that the IEA has highlighted solar energy as the ‘star performer’ in the shift towards renewable power, stating that the amount invested in solar, this year $380 billion, is set to overtake the amount of money flowing into oil production.

​John Forster is Chairman of Forster Group​John Forster is Chairman of Forster Group
​John Forster is Chairman of Forster Group

Investment trends aside, solar take-up is increasing simply because it is one of the cheapest and greenest sources of power available. The ease and speed at which photovoltaic (PV) panels can be installed in homes, factories and on farms is impressive. Unlike the set-up for wind turbines, lead times for a medium industrial solar installation can be as little as three weeks. Furthermore, solar can generate electricity all year round, even on cloudy days, contrary to popular belief.

Additionally, manufacturing costs of PV panels have fallen considerably over the last decade, making solar installation much more affordable, and a more attractive proposition, especially in the face of unpredictable energy costs. With more efficient panels and advanced technology, installations can be tailored more effectively to maximise the amount of electricity generated, stored (if connected to a battery) and used. This results in reduced energy bills and a shorter payback period for the initial investment. This can be as short as two to three years for commercial installations.

Scotland has set itself a target of Net Zero emissions for all greenhouse gases by 2045. However, as detailed in a report to Holyrood in December 2022 by the Committee on Climate Change, the country looks likely to miss even its interim target for 2030.

And whilst the IEA report is certainly a welcome indicator that globally we are moving in the right direction, our electricity grid is struggling to keep pace with the appetite for more clean energy. Like others in the industry, I am calling for urgent modernisation of electricity grid capacity and connectivity to quickly reduce the current queuing system where, in some cases, solar arrays and battery projects are stuck in gridlock for up to 15 years.

​The ease and speed at which photovoltaic panels can be installed is impressive​The ease and speed at which photovoltaic panels can be installed is impressive
​The ease and speed at which photovoltaic panels can be installed is impressive

At Forster Group, we are working harder than ever to satisfy increasing demand for solar energy for the provision of the clean affordable energy needed to power our homes, businesses and farms. What I ask is for the Government to make the necessary reforms now so that the grid is capable of serving the growing appetite for and the imperative to move more quickly towards solar and other renewable energy sources.

John Forster is Chairman of Forster Group,



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