Despite having reduced solar subsidies for households by more than half – a change that will take effect from April – the British Government has declared that almost four million homes in the UK will run on solar power by 2020.
The ambitious claim is guaranteed to raise a few eyebrows after government officials agreed to cut the amount paid to households under the Feed-In Tariff system (FITs), which provides a fixed rate of payment for households supplying solar-generated energy to the National Grid.
Energy Minister Greg Barker believes solar PV is a technology that will become more accessible to households over the next eight years. Mr Barker explained that, while the rate paid under FITs has dropped from 43p to 21p per kWh, the cost of solar photovoltaic panels has fallen by 45 per cent since 2009.
The Government made an unsuccessful bid to impose the solar subsidy cut late last year, only for a legal challenge to delay the move until April this year. Mr Barker argued that having a fixed-rate tariff for solar electricity allowed an unaffordable “bubble to grow” when the price of panels fell. Ministers now plan to implement solar subsidy cuts twice a year in line with manufacturing costs.
Representing the solar industry, Howard Johns was less than enthused by the Energy Minister’s comments. Mr Johns said: “The Government’s initial cut to the tariff was brutal and this further cut [in April] will be utterly devastating for the UK solar sector.
“The hard facts are that a cut on this scale will leave the solar industry dead in a ditch, destroying tens of thousands of jobs and cutting off a green, hi-tech British industry just as it starts to flourish”.
Mr Johns added: “In their rhetoric, ministers claim to want a renewable future, but they are destroying the very businesses that can make that future happen. This whole proposal has been rushed and chaotic. What was a real British success story is on the verge of being consigned to the dustbin”.
The Government predicts that 625,000 households will have solar panels installed over the next three years, despite only 100,000 or so homes choosing to avail of the technology when the tariff was fixed at 43p per kWh.