Government axes renewable feed-in tariff pre-accreditation

The Department for Energy and Climate Change (DECC) has confirmed plans to remove a key part of the feed-in tariff for renewable energy schemes, despite vast opposition to the proposals.

A four-week consultation into removing preliminary accreditation from the feed-in tariff closed today (9 September), having received almost 2,400 responses. 

Pre-accreditation essentially allows renewable energy producers to have certainty over the subsidy they receive for the energy they produce, before a project has planning permission and a grid connection. The rules were implemented to mitigate the declining feed-in tariff rate, which could impact later investment in projects. 

The Government says that removing the pre-accreditation rule “will provide better control over spending and ensure bill payers get the best possible deal as we continue to move to a low-carbon economy”.

Protecting consumers

Energy and Climate Change Secretary Amber Rudd said: “My priorities are clear: we need to keep bills as low as possible for hardworking families and businesses while reducing our emissions in the most cost-effective way.

“Our support has already driven down the cost of renewable energy significantly. As costs continue to fall, it becomes easier for parts of the renewables industry to survive without subsidies, which is why we’re taking action to protect consumers, whilst also protecting existing investment.” 

But the industry seems to think otherwise, with most in favour of building on the feed-in tariff scheme’s success, rather than seeking to restrict deployment. Of the 2,372 respondents to the consultation, just 16 actually agreed with the proposal to remove pre-accreditation. 

Opposite direction

The Solar Trade Association (STA) has been quick to condemn the Government’s decision to seemingly go against public opinion and the advice of the industry.

The organisation’s head of external affairs Leonie Greene said: “Just 16 out of 2,372 respondents supported the proposal to do away with pre-accreditation, and yet the Government has gone ahead and done it anyway. They have simply ignored the overwhelming opposition from across the renewables industry and beyond.

“Renewables and solar are all about giving power to the people – this is going in the opposite direction.

“This removal of pre-accreditation and the devastating cuts to tariffs are both going against the tide of public opinion where 80% of people support solar power, more than any other technology.”

Cost control

However, EEF – the trade body representing manufacturers – has said the cutbacks were needed to control subsidy costs.

EEF senior policy adviser Richard Warren said: “The roll out of small scale renewables has far surpassed previous government expectations and it is only right that steps are now taken to place some controls on the future costs of this scheme.

“This isn’t about shutting down renewables wholescale, merely placing a greater focus on value for energy consumer money. Even with significant cost reductions recently achieved, the feed-in tariff scheme reduced carbon at an eye-watering rate of £380/tonne last year. With so many cheaper options available, this is verging on the absurd.”

Today’s announcement comes just two weeks after the Government published proposals for wholescale cuts to feed-in tariffs for solar as of January 2016, which could see tariffs cut by up to 87%. Opponents say this will likely cause the closure of the entire scheme, with Friends of the Earth labelling Prime Minister David Cameron a “hypocrite”.

Luke Nicholls & Brad Allen

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