Representatives of the UK solar industry have expressed universal dismay at the prospect of a review of the country's main's support programme for large-scale solar.
Only a week after the UK was confirmed as the heir apparent to the crown as Europe’s largest solar market in 2014, fresh uncertainties have arisen over the future of the Renewable Obligation scheme.
Yesterday it emerged that the banding for large-scale ground-mounted solar support under the Renewable Obligation (RO) scheme is likely to be reviewed. This is despite the assertion last month by energy minister Michael Fallon that there would be no change to the RO before it closes to new projects in 2017.
The UK government released its Solar Strategy document earlier in the month. It dropped several hints that the boom in UK solar farms had made it uneasy and a switch in emphasis to mid-scale rooftop projects was preferable. That change could come sooner rather than later.
Bruce Davis, co-founder and managing director, Abundance:
"Tory energy policy is designed for the few, not the many. It's not hard to see a move to reduce the deployment of solar is out of step with the wishes of the majority, 80% of Brits want more solar power according to DECC's own survey this month. Meanwhile the UN is calling for an urgent reduction in fossil fuel subsidies, not renewables, to prevent the onset of climate change.
“Simply, government intervention can only go so far in redressing the balance of power in any market. The main thing it can do is to create a level playing field and stability for challengers to compete against the incumbents. This means that renewable energy should be treated as a priority planning decision, and energy policy should be made in the interests of the country as a whole, not just to appease the reactionary right wing of a party."
Nick Boyle, CEO of Lightsource Renewable Energy:
"The UK solar industry should be congratulated for its outstanding achievements in the first quarter of 2014, but instead we find ourselves having to justify our very existence.
"We simply fail to understand why we continue to be dealt with as second class citizens in comparison to offshore wind, nuclear and laterally the current flavour of the month of the fracking of natural gas.
"When is the UK government going to fully wake up to the potential of solar and stop jumping from rate cut to rate cut in a myopic race to the bottom on pricing.
"Quality solar installations are an asset to Britain and should be held up as a beacon of home grown electricity generation, but constant tariff cuts and government pressure act to undermine the excellent work we do and put into serious question the very momentum we have worked so hard to build.”
Yesterday I was excited about how solar farms could help wildlife. Today I'm just hoping they survive the latest cuts http://t.co/xHWOYpm3KO— harry huyton (@Harryhuyton) April 30, 2014
Seb Berry, head of public affairs, Solarcentury:
"Solarcentury and many others in the solar industry, including the Solar Trade Association, have been calling on DECC for several months to provide crystal clear clarity on the Renewables Obligation and to confirm that publicly. We were promised "certainty" privately as recently as two weeks ago, but such welcome assurances are now at odds with the anonymous public briefing from an unnamed Conservative source quoted by the Daily Mail.
“It goes without saying that any move to change the RO from 2015 will have significant commercial consequences for this sector because of the time-frame for large-scale projects. The truly nightmare scenario of a possible change to the RO before April 2015 would be a commercial disaster for the entire industry and certainly open up DECC to the prospect of legal challenge. We have already asked DECC whether this "imminent" review is going to provide transparent certainty and reassurance on this most important of issues. It must now do so.”
Having pledged to ban cheapest form of clean energy (onshore wind), govt is now taking aim at 2nd cheapest (solar) http://t.co/SNZ2U3A1KX— Guy Shrubsole (@guyshrubsole) April 30, 2014
Edward de la Billiere, director, Prospect Law:
“We've seen the consequences of government cuts to solar before, when in 2011 they were confirmed by the Supreme Court to be unlawful. Above all, it is vital that the government is open and consistent in its policy. Anything else will undermine investor confidence, which is starting to be rebuilt but is not as solid as some people might think. This consistency needs to be across all areas affecting renewables, so not just subsidy schemes but for instance planning policy too which we have seen reports of the government using to ambush consented renewables developments."
Ben Cosh, founder and managing director, TGC Renewables:
“You can't argue against a well planned ROC cut when solar PV hardware & installation prices are falling faster than ROC levels. But it frightens investors across the energy mix to have an emergency review within a couple of weeks of the solar strategy (where in retrospect it is clear that this review was signposted in Whitehall double speak), and less than two months since Michael Fallon told parliament: “There is no further banding review planned for the Renewables Obligation scheme before it closes to new generation on 31 March 2017”.
“Knee jerk policy does nothing for investor confidence. It drives up the cost of capital for the more risky parts of the value chain i.e. pre-accreditation, and makes it impossible to build any momentum in driving costs out of supply chains across all scales of solar and across all technologies.
“Solar is already cheaper than most other low carbon technologies. From HM Treasury’s perspective, the fact that the unpublished LCF budget is being used up by ROC-able solar faster than anticipated should be celebrated. Solar achieves the 2020 renewable targets at a lower cost to consumers.”
Ray Noble, a co-chair of DECC’s Solar Strategy and PV specialist at the Solar Trade Association (STA):
“After the recent welcome launch of the Solar Strategy taking the UK solar industry through to 2020, once again solar is being hit with a sudden knee jerk consultation.
“So despite ministers saying, only a few months ago, there would be no more changes to RO until it ends in 2017, which in itself provided the industry with much needed stability to satisfy the funding institutions, the solar roller coaster continues.
“The industry delivered over 4.5GW of Solar in three years and with a further 6GW in the pipeline to be delivered over the next two years, you would think ministers would praise the industry. Having driven down the cost of solar to the point where it delivers electricity 30% cheaper than offshore wind and to the point where electricity is needed avoiding grid losses, common sense looks to be not in this governments vocabulary, it smells a lot of politics.”