Energy minister heckled as FITs fight goes back to court

Energy minister Greg Barker was heckled as he spoke at the Micropower Council's Christmas drinks in Westminster last night (December 19).

The minister, who was speaking to an audience of renewable manufacturers and installers, was heckled by those who had invested heavily in solar PV and were relying on the subsidies generated under Feed-In Tariffs (FITs).

After about 13 minutes of his speech the president of the Micropower Council, Liberal Democrat peer Baroness Diana Maddock, was forced to ask the hecklers to let the minister finish his talk.

The minister was also talking on the eve of a judicial review challenge to the FITs cuts which takes place from today at London's High Court.

The crowd begin to turn against Mr Barker when he stated the number of solar installations in 2011, under FITs, was 100,115 compared with 1983 wind and only a mere 13 anaerobic digestion projects.

One heckler told Mr Barker the FITs changes 'fell on me without any warning' to which the minister responded: "The point at which you can scale up is not at 43p per kilowatt hour when the industry is taking five times that in subsidies than the other large scale renewables ... mass deployment is not feasible at 43p per kilo watt hour."

Other hecklers responded saying 'no body minded' the decrease in subsidy, but it was the speed and the way the consultation was organised which infuriated them.

Mr Barker then said: "One thing that has been a feature of the way we've engaged is we have brought the industry in, including the micro generation industry, and asked them what is your key ask at the point when I was degressing the large-scale tariffs.

"And the ask was actually to keep to the April 1 deadline which I undertook to do, but the numbers speak for themselves this is not something I did lightly.

"It's simply not possible to carry on this level without taking drastic action simply because of the deployment numbers, I'm afraid I had absolutely no choice but to act in the face of this extraordinary bubble."

The minister then confirmed he would publish the findings of the FITs consultation in January and would not close the scheme entirely.

"When we publish the next steps forward in January we want to find a sustainable path forward for the industry which ensures we get to the point of degression and growth and I look forward to engaging much more."

Before the heckling Mr Barker had said the renewables sector was 'dominated' by solar PV.

"There is a lot more to the decentralised energy sector than PV, PV is incredibly important part of that matrix, but it is one of several industries that has been put in the shade in recent months.

"And one of my over-arching aims of the recent difficult months is to ensure the scheme (FITs) is reformed and has a viable future.

"I don't want to repeat the bubble of the last few months ... new technologies stand to benefit from FITs whatever the shortcomings of this scheme that the coalition government inherited the fundamental of supporting micro-generation and decentralised energy and spreading them as costs and prices comes down is something we believe in passionately."

Luke Walsh


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