UK government ‘surprised’ by solar industry reaction to aggressive cuts

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Scottish energy minister Fergus Ewing has said that the UK government has been “surprised” by the level of reaction to proposed cuts to clean energy programmes, and revealed that he had been informed of hundreds of millions of pounds of investment now being withdrawn.

Speaking to Solar Power Portal UK (sister site to PV Tech) ahead of today’s Solar Energy UK exhibition, Ewing said that the government “didn’t seem to appreciate the scale of investment” that was being made into the country’s renewables deployment and had underestimated the likely impacts of the cuts.

“They didn’t even seem to realise that the effect of their decisions would be to cause banks not to invest. Surely…they might have had some inkling that if they scrap a particular incentive scheme early, it’s going to damage investment. It’s not very complicated,” Ewing said.

The minister also revealed that he had been informed of one investor withdrawing up to £300 million of investment from the UK’s renewables industry as a result of the proposed cuts, and said the government had caused “furore at the upheaval across the board”.

“The decisions that Mr Osborne – I think, really, he’s the architect of all of this – has made will cost jobs, will cost business, and will cost investment. They’re anti-business, they’re anti-investment and that is now becoming obvious.

“I do hope all of the pressure cumulatively will bring about a rethink within DECC, and perhaps more importantly within HMT,” he added.

Ewing’s comments echo those made by former energy minister Greg Barker, who at the weekend told BBC Radio Four that he was “certain” there would be changes to the proposed cuts to the feed-in tariff, adding that his concern was over whether or not they would be “bold” enough.

Scotland has sought to offer more certainty for renewables investment and has exercised its right to retain grandfathering under the Renewables Obligation scheme after the UK government said it was to axe them.

Ewing said that the decision to do so had been strongly welcomed by Scotland’s solar sector. “I think they're pleased that we've stuck to the rules and we haven't chopped and changed the system as has happened south of the border,” he said.

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