Solar campaigners attack FiTs cut

Solar supporters have attacked the Government’s cuts to the Feed in Tariffs which were announced yesterday. Friends of the Earth condemned the FiTs consultation as an “utter farce”, while the […]

Register now!

By Vicky Ellis

Solar supporters have attacked the Government’s cuts to the Feed in Tariffs which were announced yesterday.

Friends of the Earth condemned the FiTs consultation as an “utter farce”, while the Solar Trade Association worried that lower subsidies would kill the solar industry above 50kW in the UK.

FiTs offer money to businesses and homeowners who make their own energy from renewable sources. The scheme has proved so successful that its uptake has eclipsed all expectations.

Energy Minister Greg Barker said that meant things had to be cut so on Thursday the government reduced FiTs for solar to 8.5 pence per kilowatt hour (kWh) for future projects between 250 kilowatts and 5 megawatts (MW) in size, while any between 50-150 kW will now get 19.0p/kWh.

Despite criticism Mr Barker defended the decision: “It is clear from all the evidence received as part of the consultation that the demand for feed-in tariff subsidy has grown so substantially that it now significantly exceeds the amount of funding available during this spending review period. Without urgent intervention, the scheme would have been completely overwhelmed within a very short period of time.”

But many campaigners weren’t convinced. Donna Hume at Friends of the Earth said: “This consultation has been an utter farce – Ministers have completely ignored warnings from community groups and investors about the devastating impact of slashing payments.”

Larger-scale PV has also been “demonised” by the change, according to Gaynor Hartnell, Chief Executive of the Renewable Energy Association (REA). She said: “We don’t support this [cut]. The logical approach would have been a 25% reduction across the board, irrespective of size. This is on account of panel costs falling significantly, a phenomenon expected to continue so that PV should need no subsidy before the end of the decade.”

Solar Trade Association’s Chairman Howard Johns claimed the Coalition has “got it seriously wrong.” STA worried that changes toFITs would effectively kill theUK solar industry for all installations over50kW.

But other renewable groups said that the cuts won’t have such an extreme impact.

John Constable at the Renewable Energy Foundation told ELN: “This is an overreaction, the subsidies in the first round [of the Feed in Tariffs] were overgenerous. It’s better to have a correction sooner rather than later, I’m sure there are still parts of the industry that will succeed. These are still generous subsidies.”

Quelling fears for community projects, a DECC spokesperson said: “Solar PV Projects under 50kW are unaffected by the fast track review. A 50 kW scheme is still a large site, equivalent in size to two tennis courts, and suitable for the vast majority of community projects.”

Mr Barker added: “The new tariffs will ensure a sustained growth path for the solar industry while protecting the money for householders, small businesses and communities.”

Related stories:

FiTs subsidy cut to solar over 50kW

Government getting it wrong on FiTs

Could FiT review put solar in the shade?

FiTs ‘energise solar industry in the UK’