Sun goes in on solar state schools

Solar panel tax hikes are to hit state schools unfairly. Climate change charity 10:10 claims the new tax will disproportionately affect state schools as private schools, free schools and academies […]

By Jonny Bairstow

Solar panel tax hikes are to hit state schools unfairly.

Climate change charity 10:10 claims the new tax will disproportionately affect state schools as private schools, free schools and academies are exempt due to their charitable status.

It calculated schools that have invested in solar projects with 10KW of capacity or around 40-50 panels could end up paying £803.35 in business rates. Previously, small solar installations such as this were were not taxed.

Those with larger setups of more than 200 panels already pay business rates but could potentially now see bills raised “eight-fold”.

Schools that recently installed solar panels would have been hoping to pay back the cost of the panels in five to eight years. If the changes to business rates go ahead, the charity estimates it could now take double the time.

For schools planning to install solar despite the cuts, the new tax hike would reduce the lifetime return of the panels to near zero or even cause a loss, 10:10 claims.

Adam Stanley, Assistant Headteacher at Liss Primary School in Hampshire said: “This is a real shame considering how much the government ‘talks up’ the need for looking after the environment.

“The news that the government now intends to increase business rates fills me with despair. Not only will we struggle to break even on our investment but by the exemption of schools with charitable status, you are creating a two tier system which penalises local authority schools.”

The government insists it is committed to providing secure, clean and affordable energy “now and in the future”.

A spokesperson said: “Solar deployment is a UK success story with almost 11GW of capacity now installed.

“Business rates are based on valuations from the independent Valuation Office Agency. We will look closely at the impacts of the forthcoming valuation and consult on how to make sure the right support is in place for businesses to adjust to any changes.”