Guest Blog: Mervyn Bowden – Village idiots behind bonkers EU solar panel move?

I never cease to be amazed at the roller-coaster mentality which has invaded what is a potentially huge cash earner and employer in the UK. What am I talking about? […]

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By Vicky Ellis

I never cease to be amazed at the roller-coaster mentality which has invaded what is a potentially huge cash earner and employer in the UK.

What am I talking about? The renewable energy market, especially solar PV. Despite immense obstacles it has shown signs of growing in a difficult UK market.

Not that you’d think that was desirable – given the EU’s recent strange decision to impose levies on solar panel imports.

Where have the village idiots gone? To the EU

Am I alone in thinking that the EU Commission, European governments, not least our own, are supposed to be encouraging the take-up of technologies like solar? Maybe not.

I suspect our once thriving population of village idiots, noticeable by their absence these days, has now migrated to the policy team at the EU Commission. The thinking defies logic…

“This is not protectionism” – or is it?

I’m sure it has absolutely nothing whatsoever to do with a German propensity to look after its own solar PV panel manufacturing, principally in the old East Germany and heavily labour intensive – despite the German Government supposedly positioning against a levy.

Perhaps I was naïve to think the days of trade protectionism were a long way behind us. This is a horribly dangerous precedent, almost guaranteed to provoke reciprocal action by the Chinese – and it could go way beyond the issue of solar panels.

Perhaps we don’t already have sufficient inflationary pressures – perhaps we should continue to artificially inflate the price of items we’d like to be used more? BONKERS.

I have to declare an interest here – I work with a number of companies involved in renewable generation both at the developer and user end.

The grave uncertainties which have been caused over recent years through feeble legislation, oscillation on subsidies and a general cloak of volatility around the whole subject has been powerful in shooting everyone in the industry in the foot.

Business could be quids in with solar

At a time when power purchase agreements (PPA) from solar PV schemes can be secured at around 8-10p/kWh, with simple cash paybacks of 5-7 years and with return on investment up to around 20%, this is no time to rock the boat.

Now should be THE time for everyone to urgently consider coating their roofs, car-park perimeters or brownfield sites as a far less intrusive technology compared to some alternatives.

That’s from major property companies through to individual domestic users and even financial organisations like pension funds.
But the message is not getting through.

Tough questions for the EU

Instead, poor decision-making at European level is causing large numbers of jobs in installation and maintenance, rather than the obvious manufacturing sector to be put at risk.

Is it any wonder, given the volatility of pricing influences in this market, that the speculators are having a field day and stockpiling solar panels for potential financial gain?

This is a key question: can our “friends” in the EU Commission give us details of the majority voting needed to bring in what is a crazy stance on “temporary” levies which will effectively put the industry on standby mode?