Government watchdogs drag Barker over the coals

Energy Minister Greg Barker faced tough questions yesterday from MPs about controversial changes to the solar Feed-in Tariffs (FiTs) scheme. The solar industry is angry over the decision to cut […]

Register now!

By Vicky Ellis

Energy Minister Greg Barker faced tough questions yesterday from MPs about controversial changes to the solar Feed-in Tariffs (FiTs) scheme.

The solar industry is angry over the decision to cut the level of solar funds available from December, rather than the planned date of April 2012.

At an emergency meeting of both the energy and environment committees yesterday, Mr Barker claimed the scheme would “go bust” if the subsidy levels weren’t cut next month.

The minister said: “Because we’ve stepped in when we have, we’re preserving the budget. The worst possible thing that we could have done would be to close our eyes to what was happening in the sector, allowed the budget to have been exhausted and then have to close the scheme.”

But Labour MP Dr Alan Whitehead, who sits on both committees, questioned whether keeping to the original April deadline would really be “ruinous”.

Dr Whitehead argued the Government had originally set aside a £1bn budget for the FiT scheme. The Government’s own estimates said if the original April deadline was maintained only £900m of that figure would used up leaving a considerable surplus. So why was DECC cutting off the deadline so early?

Dr Whitehead asked Mr Barker: “Would you agree that actually it does appear that going with a first of April eligibility date… would not be ruinous as far as the overall Budget is concerned?”

Mr Barker replied that since the original estimate new date had emerged showing a rapid rise in applications for the solar FiTs which would make shifting the eligibility date to April “absolutely catastrophic”.