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Engineers are calling on the Government to increase the remit of the Green Investment Bank. The Coalition has signalled their intent to direct the Bank’s fund towards investment in low carbon technology. But, Europe’s largest professional group of engineers, the Institution of Engineering and Technology (IET), is arguing that the Bank should also support energy efficiency innovations in the manufacturing sector.

The investment mandate for the Bank is to deliver the Government’s aims on economic growth, facilitate the transition to a green economy and support the UK’s industrial transformation. Much of the focus to date has been on investment in the manufacture of low carbon goods and the rollout of green infrastructure.

Dr Tony Whitehead, Director of Policy at the IET said: “Energy conservation and efficiency should be amongst the first priorities of a sustainable energy policy.

“Energy is set to become increasingly expensive in the future, and to survive in the global market, UK firms will not only need to produce new products, but to produce them at competitive prices. This means driving costs down wherever possible.

“The manufacture of low carbon technology is often seen as a panacea to meet the UK’s carbon reduction requirements whilst at the same time creating a renaissance in UK manufacturing. Yet the manufacture of low carbon goods is not in itself automatically green. A green industrial revolution should first focus on greening manufacturing processes to reduce energy and resource use.

“For the UK to achieve its targets on carbon emissions there needs to be extra support for green manufacturing processes. Energy conservation and efficiency in the manufacturing sector should be a priority for the Department of Business, Innovation and Skills and more widely across government.

“In addition, access to the Green Investment Bank by SMEs will be paramount. SMEs are able to develop and commercialise products rapidly in niche areas. By its very nature, green technology and processes will require innovative solutions; an area where SMEs can develop a competitive advantage for UK plc. SMEs should have priority access to the Green Investment Bank to spur green growth and technology.”

A Manchester-based lawyer at boutique commercial law firm Heatons LLP has this week completed a deal for the procurement of what is believed to be one of the first large scale solar parks in the UK.

Construction partner James Flynn, who specialises in the renewable energy sector, advised client SOLON SE, one of the largest manufacturers of solar modules in Europe, on the agreement with Rockspring Property Investment Managers. Rockspring owns the site of the plant, part of an old RAF airfield at Westcott Venture Park in Buckinghamshire.

SOLON will be responsible for the design, construction operation and maintenance of the plant, as well as the manufacture and delivery of the solar modules themselves.  Construction work on the site has already begun and is due to complete in June this year. The park is expected to deliver a peak power output of around 408 kilowatts.

James said:

“This deal represents one of the few large-scale solar projects to go ahead in the UK following the Government’s publication of its plans to reduce the Feed In Tariff for large scale solar plants.  It is fantastic that the parties involved have managed to continue with this project.  We hope this will encourage others within the industry to follow suit, and that the project can be used as an example with which to encourage Government to change its attitude to large scale solar projects.

“At a time when many larger solar projects have been scrapped, this deal sends out the clear message that large European solar specialists like SOLON remain dedicated to helping UK businesses develop renewable energy projects.”

James added that Heatons continues to build on its service offering to the renewable energy sector:

“As a firm, Heatons has consistently demonstrated its commitment to the renewable energy industry.  We are now at the cutting edge of this sector, having also advised on the country’s first project funded AD (anaerobic digestion) plant, and we hope to continue to use our experience to help get these projects financed and built,” he said.


Through studying the UK solar industry in the wake of announcements of cutbacks in the solar feed-in tariff, IMS Research has concluded that the future looks very uncertain, if not bleak. Recent news that the government is set to reduce the aforementioned tariffs has been bemoaned by members of the UK solar industry and has been reflected in the findings from IMS. The feed-in tariff offers fixed, premium rates for units of energy both generated and fed back into the grid by renewable energy generators and is essential in off-setting the obvious costs in installing solar pv panels.

The government and in particular the Department of Energy and Climate Change (DECC) has made it clear that they would like to stifle investment in large scale ‘solar farms’ and instead concentrate on household roof-mounted solar projects. This, IMS believe will destroy the potential for industrial scale solar projects in the UK, something which they suggest will be the downfall of the industry in this country. Certainly, where feed-in tariffs have proved successful elsewhere, larger scale projects have proved extremely effective in helping to create competition and bring costs down over a longer term.

IMS Research has stated that,

“Effectively making solar energy uneconomic for commercial organisations demonstrates the Government’s lack of commitment to renewable sources. It also has an implication for the management of public buildings, such as hospitals and schools, for whom solar power will no longer be financially viable. Limiting solar power to small-scale installations means the sector will simply never take off, other than creating a niche industry. And while countries such as Japan, Italy, Germany, China and the U.S. have said that they will be giving greater financial support to solar power and already have substantial solar PV capacity in place, the UK government has taken the opposite approach, making it clear that nuclear energy is definitely part of the plan for power generation in the UK.”

At a time where job cuts appear daily in national newspapers and politicians expound the notion of a return of a British manufacturing sector, the reduction of solar feed-in tariffs for industrial scale projects is unsurprisingly being met by criticism. It will be hoped that the government does not retract tariffs any more than it has done, otherwise UK solar may just not survive infancy.

British installation and delivery firm Avonline has launched a solar scheme designed to allow homeowners to benefit from free electricity and revenue from the feed-in tariff. The scheme launched back in January will mean that homeowners wishing to invest in solar panels will only have to put up part of the cost, the rest being met by SunShare. Sunshare estimates that typical households with roof mounted solar installations will earn around £1,000 per annum from money generated by the feed-in tariff.

The difference between the SunShare scheme and other free solar offerings is that with this, homeowners will be able to benefit from the revenue generated from feed-in tariffs as well as cheaper utility bills. Managing Director of Avonline, Mark Wynn commented that,

“Any household that’s looking for a guaranteed long-term investment will struggle to find a better option. Qualifying UK homes can get a fully-installed solar PV system for as little as £3,999. The homeowners who make this investment will subsequently reduce their electricity bills by up to 40%. They will be able to earn over £1,000 a year from feed-in tariff payments, add value to their home, protect themselves against escalating energy costs and reduce their carbon footprint, just to mention a few of the benefits.”

This model means that both the Household and SunShare will benefit from the revenues generated by the feed-in tariff scheme, a revenue share which certainly seems a lot fairer than ones proposed by other free offerings immediately following the introduction of the tariff last year. The feed-in tariff works by offering fixed, guaranteed rates for units of energy both utilised and fed back into the grid by small scale solar generators. Wynn certainly understands that while many people are keen to tap into the revenue stream from solar energy many find it a daunting task.

“Trying to take on the whole responsibility and costs for a solar installation for your home can be a daunting task and this may have put off quite a few households who considered benefiting from the feed-in tariff scheme last year. However, with a unique scheme like Sunshare, upfront installation costs for homeowners will be significantly reduced and a professional partner will take away all the hassle of the installation, ongoing maintenance and the continuous paperwork associated with the feed-in tariff throughout the duration of the scheme.”