Solar industry united against potential policy changes

With speculation mounting that support for large-scale solar is going to be cut by the Government, leading renewable energy organisations have voiced concerns that another badly handled review of the sector could spook investors and bring uncertainty to Britain's solar industry.

Earlier this week, Government sources reportedly confirmed that an announcement is ‘imminent’ concerning changes to support levels for solar power schemes. But industry bodies are warning that drastic amendments to policy can lead to job losses and damage investor confidence across the renewables sector. 

“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.”

Energy Minister Michael Fallon recently told the House of Commons that ‘there is no further comprehensive banding review planned’ for the Renewables Obligation (RO) scheme before it closes to new generation in 2017. 

But if this speculated review goes ahead, it would be the third RO review for solar power in less than three years. The industry is now calling on DECC to reassure investors and confirm that the RO will indeed be left alone.

Investor confidence

Seb Berry, head of public affairs at energy firm Solarcentury, said: “Solarcentury and many others in the solar industry, including the Solar Trade Association (STA), have been calling on DECC for several months to provide crystal clear clarity on the Renewables Obligation and to confirm that publicly.

“We were promised ‘certainty’ privately as recently as two weeks ago, but such welcome assurances are now at odds with the anonymous public briefing from an unnamed Conservative source.”

Paul Barwell, chief executive of the STA, added: “We are disappointed to read that DECC is launching another review on the solar industry. Investor confidence and market stability is absolutely essential in order to deliver sustained cost reductions for consumers and a healthy solar industry for UK plc. We are obviously on tenterhooks to see what changes DECC is proposing to make.”

Solar has received widespread public support over recent years, with a DECC survey last year concluding that 85% of people are in favour the technology. But, as alluded to in the REA’s REview earlier this week, there is a close between clear, stable policies and the ability of renewable energy sectors to attract investment, create jobs, and grow the share of clean energy in UK.

Solar farms

Friends of the Earth energy campaigner Alasdair Cameron concluded that the solar industry needs support from Ed Davey and co, to allow it to grow.

“Solar power is hugely popular and is on course to be one of our cheapest forms of energy, but it needs robust and predictable support to enable it to thrive and further reduce its costs,” said Cameron.

“While the benefits of rooftop solar are clear – particularly on schools and other public buildings – large-scale ground-mounted panels have an important role to play and present excellent value for money.

“In the right place, and with the right measures, solar farms can benefit nature, as well as providing cheap, low-carbon energy.”

Luke Nicholls

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