The row about UK solar feed-in tariffs rumbles on. This morning, Energy Secretary Chris Huhne tried to persuade people in the South West that solar subsidies should not go to the kind of large-scale solar farms that are being developed in that part of the country.
His words seemed to back some of the arguments used by large-scale solar developers, who are up in arms about the government’s move. Firstly, even though the government is only announcing a review of which projects are eligible for subsidies, Huhne seems to have prejudged its outcome:
A 5MW solar farm could deny around 1500 homes from claiming FITs for solar panels on their roofs… At the moment the risk is, if we don’t deal with the excesses, then the whole thing will come grinding to a halt.
“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.
In this first weekly readers’ Q&A session of 2011, Chris Huhne, the UK energy secretary, answers your electricity-market related questions.
In the first of two posts, he addresses the limits of feed-in tariffs, what will happen to the renewables obligation and how to keep green jobs in the UK.
In the second post, published above, he discusses ths cost of emissions targets, the chances of another oil shock and what should happen to the “big six” power companies.
Next in the hotseat is Jack Gerard, the head of the American Petroleum Institute, who will be answering your questions next Friday, January 14th. Send in your questions for consideration by the end of Sunday, January 9th – to email@example.com.
But for now, over to Chris:
Last week I wrote that one of the areas of complete agreement at a debate during the European Future Energy Forum had been the need for a high and stable carbon price to incentivise low carbon energy production. But I added that nobody knew how to bring it about.
During that debate, the foreign office minister Lord Howell said:
The government has got to keep its nerve and do some brave things which are highly unpopular and likely to lose nice votes. This is getting if anything more difficult, as gas gets very cheap, and the gap with renewables widens. We need to get costs down and carbon price up.
This resolution to make a potentially unpopular move will be tested on Wednesday evening. That is when the big six British energy companies, including Centrica, EDF and Scottish Power, will warn Chris Huhne over dinner that the government’s proposed carbon floor price is not going to achieve much.