Industry hits back as UK government reduces support for 'popular' solar

support for 'popular' solar

The UK government has been accused of pushing the solar sector “off a cliff” following the announcement of a subsidy review. Creative Commons: Windwärts Energy, 2011

The UK government is under fire from industry and NGOs today for pushing the solar sector “off a cliff”, as it confirms drastic reforms to its subsidy regime; further highlighting it is on the wrong path when it comes to energy policy.

Leonie Greene from the UK Solar Trade Association said:

The government is in danger of pushing the whole non-domestic solar PV sector off a cliff. We are happy to discuss cost reductions with the government but let’s do it on the basis of evidence. This latest review seems to be purely political and reactionary.

The fourth review of solar subsidies in just three years – labelled “compulsive policy tinkering” by NGOs – today’s announcement is set to further increase the “uncertainty, bewilderment and anger” already felt from the industry, as it sees financial support cut for solar farms larger than 5MW from April 2015 under the Renewables Obligation from April 2015.

This will leave them competing with other, more established forms of renewable energy – including offshore wind and energy from waste – for support under the ‘contracts for difference scheme’.

Seb Berry from Solarcentury and the Solar Trade Association said:

As we await the umpteenth solar review this Parliament, it’s worth reflecting that it didn’t have to be like this. The reality is that the current level of uncertainty, bewilderment and anger right across the industry is entirely of the government’s own making. In the aftermath of the disastrous and illegal feed-in tariff consultation at the end of 2011, the whole industry warmly welcomed the establishment of DECCs new high level solar strategy group in 2012, followed subsequently by new specialist working groups including the Minister’s own solar farm land use task-force. But in developing DECCs new approach to the treatment of large-scale solar, this structure has been completely bypassed in recent months.

In more positive news, the reforms are set to make it easier for communities to own their own solar farms, as the size of such projects is allowed to double.

NGOs say the latest announcement further amplifies the government’s absurd position on energy, as it continues to pursue risky, dirty and “locally unpopular” shale gas exploration while undermining the solar industry that “enjoys strong public backing and is delivering electricity and jobs”.

Alasdair Cameron, Friends of the Earth Energy Campaigner said:

Every time a renewable energy technology starts to do well it gets hit by a wave of Government uncertainty, which pushes up costs and threatens jobs and investment. Attacking large-scale solar parks, while doing almost nothing to boost rooftop systems, is another sign of this Government’s piecemeal approach to policy making. Solar power is cheap, popular and essential for tackling climate change and energy security. UK renewables should be the cornerstone of future UK energy policy – not fracking.  But yet again the Government has totally underestimated its potential.

A series of reports this week show the government is getting ready to open up more areas of the UK to fracking, including national parks and cities, while an influential group of Lords has called for fracking to be an “urgent national priority”.

But as the UK government “cherrypicks” evidence to make the case for shale gas, renewable energy continues to build momentum globally – new figures from the International Renewable Energy Agency (IRENA) show over 6.5 million people are now employed in the renewable industry worldwide.

Industry experts and green groups are renewing their call for the UK to stop lagging behind and support this booming industry.

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