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At the beginning of the month the British parliament voted in favour of a parliamentary motion supporting next year’s introduction of feed-in tariffs by a massive majority of 240 MPs. The legislation designed to spur investment in the photovoltaic (PV) industry will, when implemented be an extremely effective mechanism for promoting growth in the fledgling renewable industry in the UK as it has been in other regions where feed-in tariff legislation has been introduced.

Feed-in tariffs work by offering fixed, premium rates for electricity fed-in to the grid by small scale solar energy producers. Over a period of 20-25 years the feed-in tariff (FIT) contract offers a return to solar investors thus greatly increasing the installation of PV plant. In Germany, for example where the tariff has been extremely successful in attracting investment there have been other market advantages such as job creation in the solar industry and of course a sharp rise in solar equipment manufacturing.

Members of the UK solar industry are now increasingly optimistic that the government FIT will generate a successful solar industry across the UK. As Clive Collison, head of Action South Facing a Hertfordshire based solar installation firm commented,

“We are very excited about this. We are now getting all sorts of inquiries from companies, local authorities and individuals. But nothing is guaranteed. We don’t know the level it will be set at yet and the big energy companies are still lobbying against it.”

With big conventional energy producers lobbying against solar energy legislation and a lingering support for nuclear power, it will be essential that the government seizes the opportunity this year to set up a FIT which offers real possibilities for a vibrant PV industry in Britain. With Gordon Brown’s commitment to the ‘Green New Deal’ with planned job creation and economic revitalization by means of the renewable energy industry, it is expected that the UK will reap the benefits of a strong tariff mechanism. Jeremy Leggett, Chairman of Solar Century has added his wait to the debate by pointing out the dangers of missing the boat on effective PV policy,

“UK plc will essentially have to sit and watch as other countries create jobs, tax income and energy security in one of the fastest-growing industries within the emerging green industrial revolution.”

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