The proposed cuts to the UK solar feed-in tariff for large scale energy producers has been met by angry reaction from the industry who believe it could prove disastrous for fledgling solar projects. The plans are for the tariffs to be cut for more large scale solar projects such as those being set up on large solar farms or on the roof space of commercial buildings. The government has made efforts to distance itself from these more industrial scale solar projects and has instead publicly favoured micro-generation solar schemes for households and local communities.
The solar feed-in tariff works by offering guaranteed, premium rates for renewable energy both used and fed back into the grid by small scale renewable energy producers. The aim of this mechanism is to encourage investment in this once expensive industry by offering the opportunity of both long term revenue generation and savings on utility bills for households. Ernst & Young who have perennially made the connection between attractiveness for investors and the strength of feed-in tariffs believe that proposed changes to the mechanism at this point could be disastrous. Ben Warren, a partner of Ernst & Young commented that,
“The whole investor market was totally disengaged as a result of the feed in tariff being ripped up,”
Certainly the correlation between the strength of the UK tariff and the potential for investors to put their cash into solar projects in this country is significant and the warning from other countries is that where tariffs are rolled back, the solar industries in those countries fail as a result shortly after. Proposed government plans currently subject to lengthy consultation are for reductions of tariff payments for solar installations falling within the 250kw to 500kw bracket. This will affect larger scale schemes such as proposed solar farms based in the West Country where large areas of agricultural land are being set aside for the installation of solar pv systems.
The basic idea behind this plan is that more subsidies which essentially come from UK energy consumers are fed into projects which benefit the whole as opposed to wealthy investors looking to make a quick buck from solar farm investments. The move will certainly fall into Cameron’s cosy idea of a ‘Big Society’ whereby community projects, social housing and local services will all benefit from the revenue which will potentially be generated by tapping into renewable energy. Government spokesman Greg Baker said that he was keen to,
“Make sure that we capture the benefits of fast-falling costs in solar technology to allow even more homes to benefit, rather than see that money go in bumper profits to a small number of big investors”.