UK association fights to stop feed-in tariff cuts

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The UK Solar Trade Association (STA) has called for a delay to planned feed-in tariff cuts in a bid to boost installed capacity figures. In a letter to the Department of Energy and Climate Change (DECC) the association asks for the proposed July cuts to be held off until figures pick up.

This news comes just weeks after high-level executives from over 400 solar companies wrote to the UK Prime Minister, David Cameron, urging him to halt the planned cuts to solar subsidies.

Recent UK installation figures show that total capacity for the past four weeks was 17MW, which compares to a four-weekly average of 71MW over the past 12 months. This drop can be attributed to a number of factors, including the introduction of new energy efficiency requirements, a consumer confidence knock and the fact that the UK has slipped back into recession.

However, despite this dip in demand, the STA remains confident that there is significant potential for investment within the UK solar market.

The STA chairman, Alan Aldridge, said: “The STA has been seeking to counter the public confusion around solar in a bid to reignite the market (the feed-in tariff offers a ROI today which is as good as when it was first launched), but this effort will take some time to translate into sales. There is no doubt that solar is in better shape now than last autumn, but we need the government to allow the market to adjust to changing circumstances before introducing the next round of tariff cuts.

“We are facing an unusual set of challenges right now and it is fundamentally a problem of confidence and perception. We need all champions of solar – in government, industry and elsewhere – to help us get the message out that solar is still a great investment, particularly with energy bills on the rise again. But we also need government to show real sensitivity to the current situation and work with us to create a stable and growing market,” Aldridge continued.

Earlier this week the STA joined the UK’s Renewable Energy Association, British Photovoltaics Association and Micropower Council to promote the continued viability of solar in the UK. All four associations have previously demonstrated their frustration with the negative messages and policy alterations which have attributed to residential market stagnation.

Despite the current reduction in demand for smaller-scale solar in the UK, the large-scale solar sector is expected to make a return during 2012 under the old finance mechanism. Since the feed-in tariff for solar projects over 50kW was slashed in August 2011 many developers have begun to look at installing 5MW+ plants under the Renewables Obligation. To date more than 100MW of large-scale solar has entered the planning stage under the RO, with some projects rumoured to be in the region of 30MW. This sector is expected to have a significant impact on UK solar demand during 2012/13, and will potentially buoy the install figures in the coming months.

If you’re interested in the UK solar market join others at ‘Doing Solar Business in the UK’ in Munich on the eve on Intersolar Europe. For more information and to book tickets for the event visit the website here.

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