Sadiq Khan calls for rethink on solar subsidies closure

London mayor Sadiq Khan was written to the Government expressing his concerns that a decision to let financial solar incentives expire next year could create a "cliff edge" for the wider solar market.

Khan penned a letter to Energy Minister Claire Perry, claiming he was “deeply concerned” that Government proposals to end the Feed-in Tariff (FiT) scheme once it expires in March 2019 would hamper his own efforts to boost deployment of solar technology in the capital.

Once the scheme expires, households will no longer be able to generate income by selling unused electricity sourced from solar back to the national grid. Khan believes that the decision could dissuade the public from investing in household arrays.

“I am deeply concerned that the proposals your department have set out will undermine these efforts, making the payback on solar PV less attractive for Londoners, and worryingly, creating a cliff edge for the solar market,” Khan wrote.

The FiT scheme will close to new applicants after 31 March 2019. The Government is currently consulting on the future of the initiative, proposing that no follow-up scheme should be introduced.

According to the Government consultation, the FiT scheme has achieved an ambition to support the deployment of small-scale (5MW or less) renewable technologies. The Government claims that installations and installed capacity have exceeded expectations.

However, cuts to the FiT scheme back in 2015 created a 75% fall in installations and Khan is concerned that expiring the scheme all together could have similar consequences.

Khan is aiming to install 2GW of solar in London by 2050, 100MW of which will be issued through various community programmes. The Solar Together project, for example, has helped reduce the cost of installations by 35% by auctioning solar installations at the lowest price to groups of households.

The second phase of this project closed this week, with the Greater London Authority attempting to push through contracts before the FiT scheme’s expiration next year.

Subsidy-free solar

The Government’s closure decision is partly based on the emergence of subsidy-free solar projects.

The country’s first subsidy-free solar farm in Bedfordshire, for example, is co-located with a 6MW battery storage facility, while a business park in Buckinghamshire is set to generate more solar than it consumes, once the nation’s first subsidy-free industrial solar installation is completed on the site.

Research suggests that Britain is on course for a subsidy-free renewables “revolution” that could add 18GW of new capacity by 2030 and attract £20bn of investment.

Matt Mace

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