Saturday, 20 November 2010

Feed In Frenzy?

A solar farm under construction
The Feed In Tariff for renewable electricity is working and working well. So well, that the Con Dems are already contemplating cutting back on it. When the scheme comes up for review in 2012 they are planning on ‘reducing projected costs by £40 million by 2014-15’. You have to wonder why though. Government does not pay for the Feed In Tariff through taxation, we all do through our energy bills so why is government so concerned? They would have been right to be concerned about ensuring that lower income customers benefit from the FIT through solar installations on their properties but fairrness doesn’t seem to be a priority for this government. 

Though 2014-15 sounds a long way off DECC Minister Greg Barker has said that,

“in the event of deployment running ahead of published projections would we bring forward that review. But, to reassure the industry further, we will announce the trigger for such an early review shortly”.

So there we have it if the policy is working too well the FIT will be cut and soon we will know the limit of the government’s ambition for FIT funded renewables.

Another aspect for concern is the Government’s desire to limit large scale ‘solar PV farms’. This statement by Greg Barker in the House of Commons last week sent shivers through the solar industry,

“we inherited a system that simply failed to anticipate industrial-scale, stand-alone, greenfield solar, and, although we will not act retrospectively, large field-based developments should not be allowed to distort the available funding for roof-based PV, other PV and other types of renewables.

This is clearly nonsense. The Conservatives supported the Feed In Tariff in opposition and were fully aware of the 5MW limit on installations. What is described by Greg Barker as ‘greenfield’ developments could equally be large installations on derelict, brownfield land with little agricultural or amenity value. Far from distorting the market for microgeneration these large PV developments could help drive down the costs of renewables for householders by growing the solar industry and creating large economies of scale.

The Government, and particularly the Lib Dems, have made great play of the fact that they will now allow Councils to keep the revenue they make from renewables through the FIT. A prime example is Cornwall Council which is soon to install a 5MW array and this will be a real money spinner for the Council at a difficult time.  One of the greatest opportunities for Councils to make back some of the money taken from jobs and vital services in the cuts could be from large scale PV arrays on land that otherwise would have no value to them or to the communities they serve. It now appears that the Government are effectively removing that solar silver lining from their cloud of cuts.


  1. "It now appears that the Government are effectively removing that solar silver lining from their cloud of cuts."

    Yes, AFTER Cornwall gets its money spinning array. Am I wrong in thinking Cornwall has a lot of Lib Dem councillors and MPs (for now!), or am I being too cynical?

  2. I think you could be being too cynical Adrian. The administration is shared. The Environment Portfolio is held by the Independent's Cllr Julian German. I've met him at LGA meetings and though the independent label can mean many things he seems on the progressive end.