Kiran Stacey Solar industry ramps up its counterattack on the government

“Greg Barker has been rude and unprofessional.” This was the assessment of the UK’s energy minister by John Moreton, chairman of MO3, a UK solar power company.

He and the industry were furious when Barker outlined his objections to large solar farms taking government subsidies, saying:

Speculators and hot money should find another home for their investments. We want to see an ambitious roll out of solar panels on Britain’s roof space but not all over the countryside.

In response, the solar industry is now gearing up for a fight against the government’s planned review of solar feed-in tariffs.

Organised* by the Renewable Energy Association, more than 20 companies have gathered together to take on the government. They aim to gather a warchest of £200,000 and use every method at their disposal – trade bodies, lawyers and PR people.

The fight begins next week when a letter will land on the desks of Barker and his boss, Chris Huhne, from the law firm Eversheds. That letter will outline how solar firms have acted according to the law as it stands, which makes no provision for limiting feed-in tariffs to small-scale solar generators. It will argue that by announcing the review and making negative comments about large-scale solar farms, ministers (especially Barker) have frozen the market and so effectively pre-empted their own review.

But Moreton and Moss also told me that they do not believe that the real fight is with the energy department at all. They think the reason that the review has been brought forward and effectively pre-empted in this way is because of pressure from the Treasury, which is desperate to keep costs down. They may find that particular battle much harder to win – after all, government ministers have tried and failed.

*The original version of this post said the REA was spearheading this campaign. Rather, it is helping developers organise it, but takes no position on the FIT review.