Thursday, August 6, 1998 Published at 08:58 GMT 09:58 UK
UK lags behind in solar power
Solar panels are selling well - but not in Britain
British Petroleum has criticised the UK Government for failing to invest in solar power despite booming worldwide demand.
New statistics reveal the global solar power industry is growing ten times faster than the oil industry.
And last year production rose by more than 40 per cent, according to the Worldwatch Institute in Washington.
But when it comes to investment, BP says the UK is left in the shade by the USA, Japan and other European countries.
It accuses successive governments of not doing enough to stimulate a domestic market.
BP, a world leader in solar production, says switching over would help reduce air pollution and in particular carbon dioxide emissions from coal generated electricity.
More incentives needed
Solar electricity may be clean and cheap, but the panels to generate it are not. Homerton playgroup in Hackney, London, had to shell out £18,000 for its panels, which would be prohibitively expensive for most households.
Industrialists promoting solar power say the Government must take the lead in providing incentives like tax deductions to bring the prices down.
Mike Pitcher of BP's solar division said: "We're lagging behind because the government has decided not to stimulate and support a solar market for domestic consumption in the UK.
Intersolar, a private company in Bridgend, Wales, which makes solar panels, has also called for the government to kickstart the industry.
The company, which, like BP, sells mostly abroad, is now set to treble in size thanks to a £3.5 million city investment.
Spokesman Philip Bouverat said: "The city backs winners. We will give our shareholders a fantastic return on their investment."
"But we're doing this predominantly on an export market.
"This country is incredibly important. Every industry needs a home market. The government really needs to look at stimulating the market."
Governments worldwide signed a legally binding agreement in Kyoto to cut air pollution.
But the UK Government has delayed its announcement on alternative energy until the autumn.