By Ray Noble, Solar Trade Association

LowCarbonEconomy.com received a very concerning email today from Ray Noble from the Solar Trade Association explaining his views on the status of the Fast Track review, how we got into this position, and how important it is now that we all do our bit to make our voices heard in support of solar energy in the UK. We thought you would be interested in us sharing this information with you. Is this really what we are to expect from the 'Greenest Government Ever'?

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Hi Todd,

I have had many meetings in recent weeks with DECC / ministers and officials. The new FITs team comprises of Rachel Solomon-Williams and Alisdair Grainger and they are a breath of fresh air to deal with. However you will see from the Fast Track Consultation Document that the minister Greg Barker, has given them the impossible task of keeping to the budget he agreed with Treasury as part of the Comprehensive Spending Review.

The suggested tariffs in the Consultation Document, up to 73% reduction, are a sign that the Minister wants to kill off all solar projects over 50kWp.

We have only recently found out that the CSR budget, submitted by the minister, was based on single domestic solar installations only being installed in the first 4 years, and that no larger projects were expected. Solar prices have dropped significantly in the last year and the industry was expecting an immediate adjustment of the tariffs (downwards) however the tariffs were recently increased as the government applied an RPI adjustment of 4.8%, putting even more pressure on the budget.

Rachel confirmed this week that when the budget is used up there will be no more FIT monies for solar until after the next spending review, i.e. 2014.

The CSR budget equates to 533MWp to cover the first 4 years of which approximately 72MWp has already been registered by Ofgem. I understand there are many other projects presently awaiting Ofgem registration!

The proposed tariff changes, subject to the consultation, will come into force on the 1st August 2011 for projects over 50kWp and 1st April 2012 for up to 50kWp, however I have estimated that there are around 400/500MWp in the pipeline that will be completed within these dates. So where DECC are trying to cut the tariffs to restrict growth, by the time they implement the changes the 4 year budget will have been all exhausted within the first 2 years.

So because the minister made a big mistake with his budget submission to the CSR and rather than admit his mistake he would rather kill off the solar industry. I would say that the solar industry responded, in good faith, to the FIT by growing from 3,000 jobs in early in 2010 to 10,000 jobs by December 2010 with a further 7,000 jobs expected by April 2011, before this minister started to interfere.

The Minister said initially that he was against solar fields last December, however he then qualified that, the very next day, by saying he was against green field solar and that solar fields in Cornwall were OK as were solar fields on brown field sites. As a result the industry continued to move forward but looking back we now know that when he said that he knew he had no budget for any solar fields. Worse than that the Minister knew he had no budget for any of the other projects up to 4kWp. The minister knew, at the time of the CSR, that many other projects were being developed or going through the planning process, which included both commercial and public buildings together with complete social housing estates, but he kept quiet about the fact he had no budget for these projects.

By calling the Fast Track Review for over 50kWp projects the minister has tried to split the solar industry into thinking that under 50kWp projects will be acceptable, but all this time he knows he has no budget for anything other than single houses. The minister has now told his department to look closely at aggregated single housing projects where social houses were being tackled as complete housing estates, because he has not allowed for any projects of this type in his budget. In effect, where the "fuel poor" were scheduled to get around 50% of their electricity for free, by solar being installed on their roof by their housing association, the Minister is now putting an end to that also.

The minister has recently visited Germany, to meet with his equivalent in what is the largest solar market in the world which has very similar light levels to the UK, making it look like he is interested in solar, but that has not changed his instructions to his department.

Solar prices continue to fall rapidly and only needed a few more years of support for solar to reach grid parity. However this minister's actions are now resulting in solar companies withdrawing from the UK, installers planning to downsize and market prices will increase as we move back to being a cottage industry. It looks like we will have to wait for other countries to grow the market for solar, which drives down the price, before the UK can benefit from this clean reliable electricity generator.

Having struggled for years to get the UK Government to recognise the potential that solar has to offer the UK and having finally got the FIT on the 1st April 2010, the last thing I expected was for the Government, one year later (due to a serious mistake by this minister) to in effect kill off the solar industry.

We only have a few weeks before the minister's Fast Track Tariff Consultation closes and we must raise the awareness of this issue if we want to have a solar industry in the future.

Could I suggest you contact your local MP, write to other ministers, engage with your local community, local and national press and anyone else you consider could exert pressure.

Should you find that anyone requires further information I would be only to happy to provide it.

Regards,
Ray

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For those who support this solar PV, in fact the transition to a low carbon economy as a whole – which is clearly now also in jeapordy – THIS COUNTRY NEEDS YOU!

Please do your bit – write to papers, email your MPs and also Chris Huhne, Charles Hendry and, of course, Greg Barker. Email addresses are below.

ps.gregory.barker@decc.gsi.gov.uk
ps.chris.huhne@decc.gsi.gov.uk
ps.charles.hendry@decc.gsi.gov.uk