Yesterday was a gloomy day for the UK solar industry, but the outlook has brightened considerably this morning with news developer Lightsource BP has struck the UK’s biggest deal yet for unsubsidised solar power with brewing giant AB InBev.
Thanks to the 15-year Power Purchase Agreement, AB InBev’s beer brand Budweiser will soon be brewed with 100 per cent green electricity in the UK. To fulfil the contract, Lightsource will roll out 100MW – around 350,000 new solar panels – of new solar capacity in the UK without any price support from government.
Budweiser’s two main UK breweries, in South Wales and Lancashire, together produce more than 17 million bottles and cans of Budweiser beer every week. As with Budweiser’s beer brewed in the US, once the green electricity is flowing the UK breweries will label their beer with a new green power label, to promote the move to consumers. This is expected to be by 2020 at the latest.
Jason Warner, zone president for Europe at AB InBev, said he hoped the use of green power to brew beer would become a talking point among Budweiser customers. “This deal is about driving positive change in what people buy in their weekly shop, order in the pub or drink with friends,” he said in a statement. “We want to build a movement towards celebrating and growing renewable electricity, and are asking our consumers, customers, colleagues, business partners and fellow companies to join us – we are making our 100 per cent renewable electricity symbol available for any brands who share these values.”
The news of such a large deployment of subsidy-free solar will come as a ray of hope for the UK’s beleaguered solar sector, which has seen its subsidy support framework stripped away in the last three years and deployment rates stall.
Yesterday the government confirmed plans to axe the export tariff for solar power, which guarantees owners of small PV installations money for the excess energy they produce. The decision attracted widespread criticism from opposition politicians, industry experts and campaigners.
Nick Boyle, group CEO at Lightsource BP, said the partnership with AB InBev is “further proof” solar can be delivered at a cost-competitive price. “We have reached a pivotal point in the UK energy sector where unsubsidised solar is going to truly make its mark as the cheapest form of energy generation, even compared to wind,” he said. “We are proud to be at the forefront of this transition with AB InBev, demonstrating that solar makes an ideal partner for corporate power.”
By 2025 AB InBev has promised that by 2025 all its purchased electricity will come from renewable sources, a pledge that would make it the world’s largest corporate buyer of renewable electricity in the consumer goods industry.