Industry divided over solar subsidies announcement

'Shambolic', says Green MP Caroline Lucas 'Blown it', says Solarcentury chairman Jeremy Leggett 'Greater certainty', says Good Energy ceo Juliet Davenport

Green party MP Caroline Lucas has slammed the Government’s “shambolic” handling of the solar crisis, arguing the latest “shock for solar” shows the new energy secretary has “fallen at the first hurdle”.

This response echoes the feelings of anger from many solar industry campaigners, who expressed regret that DECC’s announcement revealed support for solar could still be cut by as much as 35% from July – despite claims by the Government the reforms would “improve” solar subsidies.

Under DECC’S proposed reforms, support for Feed-in tariffs (FITs) would be cut from July 1 to 13.6p/kWh, while tariffs for photovoltaic panels (PV) with more than 4kW capacity could be reduced to as little as 4.7p/kWh.

Ms Lucas said the announcement was “bad news” for solar companies which have invested this year, warning that “Ed Davey should have made it a priority to delay this policy change and get it right”.

Instead, she argued that today’s announcement “once again leaves the industry reeling, with tariff cuts going far deeper than the falling costs of installation warrant”, adding that while the Government “sounds ambitious in its aims, the actual policy looks weak – with Ministers giving themselves the option of changing the tariff every two months”.

Meanwhile, solar company HomeSun ceo Daniel Green said the announcement demonstrated that the Government was “attempting to kill solar through the back door”, and warned it would result in solar becoming the” exclusive plaything of the wealthy who live in the south of England”.

He added: “We agree with DECC and accept multi-home owning landlords should have a lower tariff but why punish the majority of the population who don’t have multiple homes and don’t have thousands of pounds to invest for years in a solar purchase? These people, who are struggling with their energy bills and are looking for some relief from the Big Energy companies have been deliberately excluded without reason.”

Solarcentury chairman Jeremy Leggett agreed, saying Mr Davey had “blown it” as “further swingeing cuts to tariff levels from July 1 with the prospect of tariff cuts more often than once every two months beyond that mean that the PV industry now faces ongoing turmoil”.

As a result, he said “it’s really time for Ed Davey to do something that Chris Huhne stubbornly refused to do. Sit down with the industry, work with us, and demonstrate your commitment to saving tens of thousands of UK solar jobs. If he’s serious about green growth and green jobs, that’s the least that he can do.”

However, reactions have been mixed from the UK’s renewables industry, with many businesses and organisations expressing support for the Government’s proposals.

UK renewable electricity supplier Good Energy ceo Juliet Davenport, said: “Overall, this is a step forward. The industry has been asking for more clarity, and the government has moved to provide that that.

“The rate changes proposed for solar PV are a reflection of the well-known problems with the FIT budget and it will take time to fully digest what they mean. The important thing is we now know how tariffs are going to change in future, helping give investors greater certainty.”

Solar installer The Green Home Company executive chairman Alan Proto also welcomed the “Government’s commitment to the solar industry”, adding that he believes the plan will “support the industry as it matures so that in time it can exist without subsidy, which must be the ultimate aim for all concerned”.

He added: “We accept that there will be a period of adjustment for the industry with the new lower FIT rate, which could be as low as 13.6p/kWh after July, but we believe that in the long term this will allow solar to benefit the UK in the way in which we have seen it benefit Germany.”

This view was not shared by Ms Lucas who disagreed, arguing that the “one thing that business needs is certainty, yet these government cuts are being made so fast that it is destabilising the industry”.

Writing on twitter Southern Solar chairman and spokesman for the ‘Cut Don’t Kill’ campaign Howard Johns branded the announcement a “joke” and said “so we have had shambles and we are now faced with huge cuts in get this July and OCTOBER too! Ambitious plans?”

What is your opinion on the proposed cuts? Why not comment below.

Carys Matthews

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