Government confirms controversial solar subsidy review

Climate Change Minister Greg Barker has stated that a public consultation proposing changes to financial support for the large-scale solar industry 'will be issued shortly'.

Responding to widespread concerns about the Government’s plans to review the large-scale solar industry, Barker yesterday (8 May) told the House of Commons that a consultation is in the pipeline, but he provided little reassurance for the country’s leading renewable energy organisations.

Green MP Caroline Lucas asked Barker to provide assurances that the Government will make no changes to the support available for large-scale solar under the Renewable Obligation (RO) scheme until at least April 2015.

In response, Barker said: “The latest results from the DECC Public Attitudes Tracking survey, published on 29 April 2014, show strong levels of public support for solar photovoltaic (PV), with current support levels at 85%.

“In previous surveys, solar PV has consistently scored 81% or above. However, these figures relate to support for solar PV in general, rather than any specific form of solar energy generation. In addition, the survey does not include any reference to large-scale or ground-based solar.

“The Government said in the UK Solar PV Strategy Part 2, published on 4 April 2014, that we are considering the implications of current trends of deployment in solar PV on the financial incentives available in Great Britain under the Renewables Obligation and small-scale Feed-in-Tariff.

“We will issue a public consultation shortly proposing changes to financial support for solar PV. The proposals on which we will be consulting are intended to take effect from the 2015-16 financial year.”

Investor confidence

Energy Minister Michael Fallon previously told the Commons that there was ‘no further comprehensive banding review planned’ for the RO scheme before it closes to new generation in 2017. But if this review goes ahead as planned, it would be the third RO review for solar power in less than three years.

The proposed consultation sparked a wave of criticism from the solar industry; with experts warning that another badly handled review of the sector could spook investors and bring uncertainty to Britain’s solar industry.

“We urge DECC to tread very carefully if it does indeed plan to review the support mechanisms for large-scale solar,” said Dr Nina Skorupska, chief executive of the Renewable Energy Association (REA). “This sector is creating jobs and bringing down costs rapidly.”

Concerns from the REA and other solar industry organisations will now revolve around exactly when this consultation will appear; and how significant any cuts to solar farm subsidies will be. Watch this space.

Luke Nicholls

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