The group of UK solar companies behind the campaign against the reduction of the subsidies for larger projects has asked the courts to quash the government’s review altogether.
Greg Barker, energy minister, announced in March that the government intended to cut the level of public subsidy for large solar farms after a brief review of feed-in tariffs.
The companies have filed a claim in the High Court for judicial review against Chris Huhne, energy secretary, and hope they can get the energy department to start all over again on the process of deciding which projects get which subsidies.
The groups have included four arguments in their case:
- The energy department previously indicated that the review would take place in 2012, with changes being implemented in 2013.
- There was a suggestion that an early review could take place based on a certain “trigger point”, but that trigger point was never set.
- There is no evidence of the “excessive deployment” of large-scale solar power about which the energy department warns.
- Large-scale solar is more cost effective, and so reducing subsidies at the larger end to balance the cost to the consumer doesn’t make sense.
As Italy becomes the latest European government to consider changing its solar subsidies, ministers should pay attention to today’s report into green investment from the Pew Environment Group.
The report looked like good news for European governments. Private investment into renewables in the European region totalled $94.4bn, about $20bn more than in 2009, and more than any other world region.
Germany and Italy both surged, with more than 100 per cent growth in investment in small-scale solar installations.
In this week’s readers’ Q&A session, Francesco Starace, chief executive of Enel Green Power, answers your questions.
Less than a year after the company’s troubled flotation, Francesco answers your questions on the effect of the Japanese nuclear crisis on renewables, EGP’s management structures and changes to European solar subsidies.
Next week, Keith Parker, chief executive of the UK Nuclear Industry Association, will be in the hotseat. Send all your nuclear-crisis related questions to firstname.lastname@example.org by the end of Sunday, March 27th.
But for now, over to Francesco:
One of Europe’s top renewables bosses has contradicted much of the rest of the solar industry by saying he is unconcerned about the changes being made to subsidies for solar power by governments around Europe.
Francesco Starace, chief executive of Enel Green Power, said his company was “not at all worried” about recent changes to government policies, which have included reductions in solar subsidies in the UK and Spain, as well as discussions on a similar move in Italy.
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).
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.
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.
Banks will have to supply 2 per cent of Europe’s GDP, or €2.9 trillion, to meet consumer demand for projects and technologies that tackle climate change, according to a new report from Barclays and Accenture.
The report took what it calculated to be the likely level of demand for things such as wind farms, energy efficiency measures and electric vehicles and estimated how much capital would be needed to fund these.
In a way, this looks like good news: demand is likely to be so high that it could provide a real opportunity for the banks. Rupesh Madlani, head of European renewables and cleantech equity research, told Energy Source: “There is a lot for the banks to play for here.”