Government calls solar farms a ‘threat’ to green building funding

Energy minister Chris Huhne today (February 7) launched an attack on large-scale solar farms claiming they could soak up funding meant to help communities green their homes.

According to Mr Huhne there is ‘growing evidence’ showing large scale solar farms could ‘soak up money’ intended to help homes, communities and small businesses generate their own electricity.

However, the Lib Dem coalition minister also said the comprehensive review of Feed in Tariffs (FITs), will also pave the way for fast tracking planning for the same big solar parks and farm-scale Anaerobic Digestion (AD) plants.

Only two AD projects have been accredited by the Government so far and Mr Huhne wants to boost this as he had hoped to have at least six accredited by this point.

Since FITs started more than 21,000 green building improvements, including solar panels, wind turbines and microhydro plants, have been built with the vast majority of these on private homes.

But, Mr Huhne said this progress was threatened by the ‘risk’ caused by the increasing number of large scale solar farms, which could cause FITs funds to be pushed ‘off track.’

Chris Huhne said: “The renewables industry is a vital piece in the green growth jigsaw and this review will provide long term certainty while making sure homes, communities and small firms are encouraged to produce their own green electricity.

“Large scale solar installations weren’t anticipated under the FITs scheme we inherited and I’m concerned this could mean that money meant for people who want to produce their own green electricity has the potential to be directed towards large scale commercial solar projects.”

The Government is also due to, next month, publish measures it hopes to support renewable heat within the budget agreed when it announced the Spending Review last year.

The comprehensive FITs review will also:

·assess all aspects of the scheme including tariff levels, administration and eligibility of technologies

·be completed by the end of the year, with tariffs remaining unchanged until April 2012 (unless the review reveals a need for greater urgency)

·fast track consideration of large scale solar projects (over 50kW) with a view to making any resulting changes to tariffs as soon as practical, subject to consultation and Parliamentary scrutiny as required by the Energy Act 2008.

Luke Walsh

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