UK confirms cuts to large-scale solar support

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The UK Department of Energy and Climate Change (DECC) has confirmed that it will scrap support for solar over 5MW from April 2015.

Despite the majority of respondents to a public consultation opposing the government’s proposals to close support under the renewable obligation (RO) for utility-scale solar early, DECC will press ahead with the controversial move.

The department said that it could not “ignore the very clear evidence that large-scale solar PV is deploying faster than can be afforded”. As a result DECC has confirmed that it will “close the RO to new solar PV projects above 5MW in scale from 1 April 2015, and to additional capacity added to existing accredited stations from that date, where the station is, or would become, above 5MW”.

Large-scale solar will now have to compete with onshore wind in the auction-based contracts for difference scheme. The International Energy Agency (IEA) has said the sector now faced an uncertain future.

The UK’s Solar Trade Association (STA) said that the decisions published on Thursday are ‘particularly damaging’ for the UK solar industry, describing the move to scrap RO support as “unfair and unjustified discrimination”.

The STA noted that the department also published figures which show that the cost of the RO was lower than predicted, with solar accounting for 1.3% of the RO budget in 2013/14.

“The large-scale solar sector has been in shock since DECC’s consultation was announced back in May,” said the association’s chief executive, Paul Barwell. “Why is the UK government putting this industry’s incredible achievements on solar power at risk? To curtail its growth now is just perverse and unjustified on budgetary grounds – solar has only consumed around 1% of the Renewables Obligation budget.”

The association has partnered with Greenpeace, Friends of the Earth, 10:10 and Green Party MP Caroline Lucas to launch on online petition which asks for the coalition to back UK solar.

Alasdair Cameron, a renewable energy campaigner for Friends of the Earth said that the closure of the RO “will undermine large-scale solar while doing nothing to boost rooftop alternatives – bad news for jobs, the climate and people wanting to plug into clean power”.

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