The Conservative Party has won a surprise majority in the UK general election, the same party that failed to mention solar energy once in its pre-election manifesto.
The result keeps David Cameron as Prime Minister for his second term.
Running up to the election the Conservative manifesto pledged to remove all subsidies for onshore wind farms among limited mentions of renewable energy and a complete omission of solar energy. The failure to mention solar prompted a backlash from industry bodies and environmental groups who labelled the manifesto as being “anti-green growth and anti-clean energy”. However, in April, energy secretary Matthew Hancock said the party is “strongly committed” to solar and is excited about its potential for the future.
Despite Cameron infamously telling aides to “get rid of all the green crap” from energy bills in 2013, the UK installed a record amount of PV under his first Government.
However support for solar projects above 5MW under the Renewables Obligation was entirely removed by the Government on 1 April this year, prompting a sudden rush to get projects completed on time, and uncertainty about how this would affect solar installation figures after the subsidy deadline.
Speaking to PV Tech after the election result, a spokesperson for Germany-based Renewable energy project developer BayWa r.e., which manages 360MW of wind and solar projects in the UK, said: “In the UK PV market, we expect no real change. Great Britain is a reliable country.”
She added that BayWa still expects the Contracts for Difference (CfD) laws to come in for 2017 without a change in policy.
Kate Baxter, strategy and external affairs manager at solar developer Lightsource, told delegates at the recent Large-Scale Solar UK conference that the industry shouldn’t be fearful of any political party, except for the UK Independence Party (UKIP), but UKIP only won one seat.
She added that all of the major UK parties would continue to support solar in Government: “We are not afraid of whoever goes into office.”
On Twitter she also congratulated Cameron and Hancock and said Lightsource looks forward to solar hitting grid parity under the new Government.
However, Leonie Greene of the UK’s Solar Trade Association said: “The outlook is obviously unclear under the Tories and clarity is needed.”
Greene noted that Conservative ministers have been strong advocates of roof-mounted solar.
She added: “650,000 solar roofs really is a world class achievement. My sense is there has been growing frustration among the Tory ministers at the marginalising of solar compared to more expensive technologies.
“I am confident support for solar will remain, the question is whether they will treat it as a sideshow to old centralised technologies or if they will recognise the technology tide is now changing dramatically internationally and that the UK urgently needs to retain and strengthen its position in the booming global solar market.”
Howard Johns, managing director of Southern Solar, tweeted:
Chief Executive of the UK’s Renewable Energy Association, Nina Skorupska, said: “Last month’s Conservative manifesto failed to reflect the ambition we expected and hoped for in regards to the future of the UK’s renewable energy industry. However, the prospect of a Conservative government now offers a fresh opportunity to show leadership in the sector."