The mood among UK trade organisations is that despite working hard to promote solar PV as an investment, governmental mismanagement has done the industry harm.
However, Swedish company IKEA, which has just annouced the decision to stock solar panels in its UK stores, is in a position of strength, as it is unaffiliated to either government or industry.
Millions live in homes furnished by IKEA and associate the brand with basic, trustworthy products that represent value for money. IKEA is universal, and hopefully will lend some of that ubiquity to solar.
A dreaded hike in energy prices - potentially 10%, by the UK's Big Six energy providers - together with the cooling-off time that has elapsed since the negative publicity over feed-in tariffs, could combine to create welcoming conditions for IKEA to champion solar. The UK might be ready to listen again.
The company has the advantage that it can promote solar to shoppers coming in for other products. A shop-front is something the solar industry does not have. Introducing PV in this way, to people who hadn't previously considered investing in alternative energy, could make a difference to how the UK perceives microgeneration.
Energy and Climate Change Minister Greg Barker has made a speech calling for a ‘decentralised energy revolution'. For the past year and a half he has been championing the Green Deal, an underperforming energy efficiency policy aimed at retrofitting cold homes, which was hyped as the government's flagship policy and yet has bankrupted a number of training centres and small companies and seems to embody all that is cursed about the Department of Energy and Climate Change (DECC).
Now Greg Barker is calling for community energy to play a big part in how the UK is powered, saying: ‘The Big 6 needs to become the Big 60,000.' Is Greg Barker trying to reinvigorate the Green Deal? Yes, he is. Meanwhile, he is toeing the party line by supporting shale gas. Community energy, the Green Deal, shale gas: talking about these themes is his homework, and for a politician to make a positive difference is difficult.
In the meantime, competitvely priced renewable options, championed by companies such as IKEA could make a real difference. By taking the conversation away from government, which has its own agenda, IKEA can do much for the mass appeal of sustainable energy. IKEA has its own commercial agenda of course, but as its agenda is concerned with defining the value of its products, solar could be due a lift.
Thank you to Business Green and the Telegraph for some of the above quotations.
David Thomas is one of the writers at The Eco Experts (@theecoexperts) specialising in emerging technology, energy efficiency and government policy. His writing has been published widely on the web. He's also an advisor for the Low Carbon Hub.