The government points out that its proposed reduction in feed-in tariffs for large solar arrays will not apply retrospectively. Only new entrants after August 1 this year will be affected by the plans.
But it can take 12–18 months to set up a big solar power scheme. In practice, plenty of companies are part of the way through the process of securing planning permission from local authorities and connection permits from network operators.
They will already have spent large sums of money – yet the proposed changes could rob their schemes of any commercial viability. Philip Wolfe is the founder and managing director of Ownergy, a company that helps customers install and maintain solar arrays.
Greg Barker, the UK energy minister, has completed his review of subsidies for solar power under the feed-in-tariff scheme, and, as expected, he has reduced the amount of money available for installations that provide over 50kW.
Ministers say the idea behind this review is to make sure that large-scale solar farms don’t hoover up money that was meant for households and small businesses to install a small amount of solar power (usually with solar panels on roofs).
“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 UK government’s plan to review the scope of its feed-in tariff looks sensible. The scheme is there to stimulate small-scale solar energy production, the reasoning goes, so we should stop large corporations from soaking up subsidies meant for householders with panels on their roofs.
But the review is in danger of giving the renewables industry and its investors very mixed messages.
A hat tip to Nick Grealy of No Hot Air for spotting this one. On Wednesday, the energy minister Greg Barker gave an intriguing glimpse of the UK attitude towards fracking, the gas extraction method that has caused so much controversy in the US. And it’s good news for the gas companies.
Here is the full exchange:
Mr Bain: To ask the Secretary of State for Energy and Climate Change what his policy is on the use of hydraulic fracturing by the oil and gas industry; and what discussions he has had with his EU counterparts on regulation of the use of hydraulic fracturing.
Gregory Barker: Hydraulic fracturing has long been used to increase the productivity of oil and gas fields and, more recently, of shale gas reservoirs, where the rock has low natural permeability. The Department has no objection to the use of this technique so long as all of the relevant environmental and planning assessments have been carried out and permissions granted. I have had no discussions with my EU counterparts on the regulation of the use of hydraulic fracturing.