Solar industry fights RHI subsidy cut

The solar industry has called on ministers to abandon plans to cut support for new solar thermal projects from the Renewable Heat Incentive (RHI) scheme - a move proposed in a government consultation that closes today.

Support for solar thermal could be removed from the RHI from 2017, despite a recent Solar Trade Association (STA) report which suggests that 83 per cent of the industry backs proposals for reform of the scheme. The report also showed an 88 per cent increase in solar thermal sales enquiries over the early months of 2016 compared to the same period in 2015.

STA head of policy Mike Landy said: “It’s hard to understand why the government is proposing to remove solar thermal from the country’s toolkit to fight climate change, especially when the UK is also struggling to meet its renewable heat target.

“Recent months have shown renewed market interest in solar thermal from consumers, so we call on the government to reinvigorate its support, not cut it off. Otherwise the country risks losing a strategically important option to reduce emissions and our reliance on fossil fuels.”

The threatened removal follows cuts in the Autumn Spending Review to the Department of Energy and Climate Change’s budget which, in turn, require the RHI to be scaled back by nearly £700m. 

The proposals set out in the consultation that followed suggest a need to “rebalance” deployment and spending in support of various technologies supported by the scheme. They are designed to improve access for those less able to pay, promote deployment of those technologies which are likely to be strategically important in the longer-term, and introduce heat demand caps to promote affordability and value for money in the domestic scheme.

Ministers are expected to reach a final decision on solar’s ongoing inclusion in the RHI in July.

These calls from the solar industry come on the same day that the Energy and Climate Change Committee has suggested that Britain’s fifth carbon budget must provide more certainty across the low-carbon heat and transport sectors, following a previous enquiry into the Government’s apparent lack of progress on its self-imposed targets for meeting demands from renewable energy sources in these key areas.

Saffron Johnson

This article first appeared on edie’s sister title, Utility Week

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