Chris Huhne has cited the need to review the solar Feed-in Tariff targets due to the unprecedented amount of large scale solar developments in the pipeline. He explains that solar farms backed by international investors have the potential to divert funds from residential solar projects, for which the tariff was originally designed.
Given that large scale solar farms have largely been a driving force around Europe – take a look at Spain and Germany – I fail to see why the Government have done their maths based on the uptake of small-scale residential developments? And if they are trying to support residential developments why does the proposal also introduce reductions for small scale from 32p/kWh to 19p/kWh – this seems counterintuitive to the aims?
There seems to be some confusion with what is being said and the policies on the table.
Aside from this, we are missing a huge economic and environmental opportunity by stifling a fragile solar industry through reduced tariffs. The solar industry has the potential to provide hundreds of jobs across the UK, as well as a healthy taxable income and the source of economic stimulus and cheap power for our communities.
By cutting the tariff on large scale solar developments, we also risk alienating foreign investors who have already earmarked sites in Cornwall and the South East of England. International developers looking at UK sites have already expressed their disappointment at the proposals.
What is more, by damaging the large scale solar sector, we could be inadvertently damaging our ability to meet stringent CO2 emission targets. The consequence of this will be heavy fines imposed by the European Commission that ultimately will be paid for by us, the tax payer.
The limits proposed and the legal definition of micro generation present another issue – 150kW seems reasonable for individual households. However it fails to recognise that not every household is suitable for a PV installation. In order to readdress this distributional inequality many communities have begun the planning process of creating their own solar parks – larger than 150kW – in order to share the benefits of generating electricity and income for themselves. I don’t believe this would be a viable or economically sound option under the proposed reduction.
There is also an important ethical argument to consider here – apart from lifestyle changes, there is very little that individuals or communities can do to make a real difference to the energy saving debate. Getting involved with community based renewable energy projects offer one of the few direct and tangible actions a person can take to reduce carbon emissions significantly.
It is also the only way we can make a stand to rising bills and the insecurity of supply, but with the review, far from achieving the principles of ‘Big Society,’ it seems our hands are tied once again.