The UK solar industry is gearing up for a fight over government plans to change the rules governing the country’s solar feed-in tariff.
A short consultation was launched in July proposing removing the FiT’s so-called pre-accreditation facility for projects over 50kW, meaning they would not be guaranteed a particular FiT rate prior to connection.
The UK Department of Energy and Climate Change said the changes were necessary to get on top of spiralling costs from the budget used to pay for the UK’s renewable subsidies programmes, such as the FiT. A full review of the UK's FiT programme is expected soon.
But ahead of the consultation on the pre-accreditation closing today, the UK’s three main solar trade bodies have spoken out against the proposed changes.
Lauren Cook, policy analyst at the Renewable Energy Association (REA), said it would focus its response the consultation proposals on the lack of an accompanying impact assessment carried out by the department and the short time-frame allocated for the consultation, a matter previously broached by environmental group Friends of the Earth.
Last month Friends of the Earth legal representative Jake White addressed secretary of state Amber Rudd to question the legality of the consultation period for renewables obligation support, arguing that it may breach administrative law by failing to comply to ‘Gunning Principles’, which set out the acceptable standards for public consultation.
DECC dismissed the complaint at the time insisting that the consultation remained within recommended guidelines. However the REA has sought to contend that further.
“We also question why this issue is being addressed outside of the main FiT review. It is difficult to respond on pre-accreditation in isolation, especially without an impact assessment and without knowing the intentions for the FiT as a whole,” Cook added.
DECC has also hinted towards further cost-control measures and could enact additional cuts to the FiT as part of a wider review to be held later this year as the department attempts to trim a forecasted £1.5 billion overspend under the Levy Control Framework.
The Solar Trade Association (STA) echoed the REA’s criticism of the short timeframe, adding that it had made it “difficult for the industry to respond”. The STA also questioned why no evidence had been provided for examination.
David Pickup, business analyst at the STA, said: “Preliminary accreditation provides the industry with a higher degree of investor security and certainty by which to get projects going. By removing it, combined with the proposal to also remove RO [renewables obligation] grandfathering, the government risks impacting investor confidence not just in solar, but in all UK infrastructure.”
“We very much encourage all solar companies and interested stakeholders to submit their own response to the consultation. STA has worked closely with its members to produce a robust STA response, but you must make your individual voices heard as well,” Pickup added.
Reza Shaybani, chairman of the British Photovoltaic Association, said that it had been difficult to engage in “meaningful dialogue” with the government since the consultation period had opened and added that the government must act if the solar industry is to embrace rooftops as the government expects.
“The government wants to push solar onto rooftops and the industry needs to be in control of what happens next. It’s much more important to look at and examine [the forthcoming feed-in tariff review] compared to what’s on the table right now. The future of the industry is on rooftops and we need certainty on what’s to come,” Shaybani added.
A separate consultation on proposals to close the Renewable Obligation programme to PV projects under 5MW projects a year earlier than planned closes on 2 September. The RO has been shut to projects over 5MW since April this year.
Solar Media, publisher of PV Tech, hosts the annual Solar Energy UK show, 13-15 October, now in its sixth year with over 7,000 attendees expected.