The Solar Trade Association (STA) announced that the U.K. government’s plans to cut its support for Solar PV represents a fall from 70 million pounds to just 2 million a year. Meanwhile the Scottish government not only confirms that sub-5 MW solar farms will continue to be eligible for the Renewable Obligation (ROC), they will also support even further community solar through an ambitious dedicated scheme. As Scotland distances itself from England and Wales, this might just mean that investments in solar PV will be heading north of the border.
A drop of 98% in the solar PV subsidy
The proposed consulation from the Department of Energy and Climate Change (DECC) this summer of the Feed-in-Tariff (FIT) review as well as the ending of the ROC one year early are will have a higher effect than expected this far. STA has calculated in its analysis of the plans proposed by the U.K. government that the cut in support for solar will reach 98% of the total PV budget. STA’s detailed analysis finds that a only £7 million shall be spent on new solar installations under the FIT in the next 3 years, which represents a 98% reduction from the current £70 million , meaning a 98% reduction to only £2 million for next year.
This means that solar will receive a mere 0.04% of the U.K.’s Levy Control Framework (LCF) budget which amounts to £7.6 billion for the next 5 years.
“Allocating £7 million of support for solar power – the world’s fastest growing clean energy solution – is absurd,” says STA chef Paul Barwell. “This does not constitute a serious energy policy”. He adds that “Solar can transform choice and competition in electricity markets, so the government’s short-term thinking on bills risks condemning hardworking families to a future of higher energy costs.” This is, according to Barwell, in addition to the fact that the cuts in solar support will decimate an industry that has risen to become the nation’s most popular source of energy, and will put at risk 20,000 jobs.
Scotland against DECC proposals
Meanwhile, Scotland’s energy minister, Fergus Ewing, has confirmed this week that Scotland will follow its own way and away from the rest of the U.K. Indeed, renewables-friendly Scotland will not be scrapping the grandfathering guarantee after the closure of the ROC for sub-5 MW solar farms on April 1, 2016. This will ensure financial stability for solar developers and plant owners over the lifetime of the project.
“The U.K. government’s decision to slash support for renewables is misplaced and actively discourages investment in clean energy,” said Ewing. “The industry needs clarity and certainty to allow the necessary decisions to be taken and I will do what I can to support the 3,000 solar jobs in Scotland that are under threat.”, he added. The director of WWF Scotland, Lang Banks, greeted the Scottish government’s decision to continue supporting solar.
An ambitious community solar project has been launched this week in Scotland as well. Edinburgh residents are offered the opportunity to buy shares – minimum of £250 – in a solar cooperative created to power public buildings. The Edinburgh Community Solar Co-op scheme will provide power to 25 of the city’s schools and leisure and community centers. The solar panels will be installed directly on the buildings’ roofs.
Where to go from here
Experts and industry actors have sharply criticized the government in the weeks and months following the proposals. The head of the Confederation of British Industry (CBI) (considered a conservative-leaning figure) declared the government’s stance to be “worrying”. Furthermore, both DuPont and Energy U.K. (the body that represents energy utilities) have asked the government to urgently reconsider its proposals.
“We have a plan to maintain a robust and growing solar industry and are keen to work with government to find an effective solar policy that also delivers value for money,” says STA chef Paul Barwell. It is essential the government rethinks its proposals, he adds, for jobs and businesses are at risk.
Meanwhile the U.K. government, who succeeded in uniting the entire industry against it, remains dead to critics and the only hope seems to be shining from Scotland.