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Welcoming an announcement by Energy Minister Greg Barker today (Thursday 24 May 2012) setting out a clear plan for solar power to 2020, Friends of the Earth’s Executive Director Andy Atkins said:

“After a year and a half of crippling uncertainty, the sun is starting to shine again on the solar industry.

Greg Barker’s 2020 vision will allow solar firms to get back on their feet, protect jobs and plan for the future – but to avoid more fiascos any mechanism for setting subsidy payments must be managed independently of Government.

The Energy Bill is a once-in-a-generation opportunity to create jobs and tackle high fuel bills by switching our electricity supplies to clean British energy – but current plans will leave the nation hooked on costly gas and risky nuclear power.

Developing the nation’s huge renewable energy potential will help drive us out of recession – the Government must make it easier for communities, schools and hospitals to plug into clean power.”

This week, Friends of the Earth and the Federation of Small Businesses wrote to Energy Secretary Ed Davey, urging him to end the uncertainty over the feed-in tariff that is hampering the solar industry, and to set out a clear plan to 2020 that enables the sector to grow steadily and with confidence.

 

Originally published on www.foe.co.uk

The solar industry has welcomed new figures revealing the market is gradually recovering from deep cuts to the popular feed in tariff incentive scheme, which effectively halted growth across the sector last month.

 

The current figures are testament to the need for a consistent government policy for renewable energy, which will encourage public investment and interest in this sector. Solarfeedintariff would hope to see more positives coming from the UK Government in this regard.

 

Deployment of solar PV has increased steadily at around 620 kilowatts per week since the start of April, according to a report published by the Department of Energy and Climate Change (DECC) late last week.

Demand collapsed after the government changed the rules governing the scheme and halved the level of incentives available from April 1. The number of installations dropped to 885 in the first week of April, creating around 2.5MW of new capacity – a huge reduction on the tens of thousands of installations undertaken during February and March.

However, provisional figures show that 1,788 solar installations were completed in the week ending 3 June, creating around 6.4MW of new capacity. The figure is less than the 2,186 installations in the last week of May, however the June 3 figure is likely to be revised upwards slightly as new information is collected.

Paul Barwell, chief executive of the Solar Trade Association, said he was confident the industry was now “on the road to recovery”, following the recent confirmation by Climate Change Minister Greg Barker that the next wave of cuts to the solar feed-in tariff will come into effect in August, cutting payments for small scale installations from 21p/kWh to 16p/kWh.

Barker also announced a new mechanism for reducing feed-in tariff that gives the government an option to cut the tariff every three months from November, based on the level of deployment in the preceding months.

“The steady climb in deployment – which will see a minor blip next week owing to the Jubilee weekend – is a sign of a stable and sustainable future for the UK PV sector,” said Barwell. “Consumers are getting the message that returns are as good as ever and the feed-in tariff is finally stable.”

However, many industry insiders remain concerned that the industry has shrunk in size as a result of the deep cuts to feed-in tariffs.

Building company Carillion confirmed last month that it would cut 1,400 jobs following a drop in demand for solar as a result of the deep cuts to feed-in tariffs. Coventry-based Norton Energy Solutions also entered administration at the end of May, putting around 100 jobs at risk.

 

Originally published on BusinessGreen.

Ministers must send clear signals that they believe in new forms of green technology if they want companies to invest in them, a think tank has said.

 

Solarfeedintariff believes that it is important for the government to agree on a clear and comprehensive energy policy that will allow for greater investment into renewable energy with an all-inclusive outlook, rather than a focus on energy companies alone.

 

The Institute for Public Policy Research (IPPR) said the government had been blowing “hot and cold” on its commitment to cut carbon emissions.

That caution had made the energy sector jittery about investing, it concluded.

The government said its proposed Energy Bill would provide “certainty” for investors in the electricity market.

Energy Secretary Ed Davey said last month climate change goals could be met by banishing coal and gas in the 2030s.

But launching the draft Energy Bill, the government said it wanted to retain flexibility on the target date.

It had previously indicated it could make energy clean within two decades.

 

‘Mixed-signals’

IPPR research fellow Reg Plant said: “An ambitious decarbonisation policy offers a route to long-term sustainable economic growth, and productive British businesses.

“But businesses need to know the government will provide consistent support for their investments.

“And at the moment ministers blow hot and cold on their commitment to a green future.”

The IPPR said there were “mixed signals” because the government initially promised ambitious targets before seeming to waver about their effect on the economy.

It also said the Treasury should ditch plans to introduce a “carbon floor price” – a green energy tax setting a minimum price for greenhouse gases.

Mr Davey has said the scheme would encourage companies to develop more green technologies, but critics argue the tax would be passed on to consumers.

 

‘Best deal’

A Department of Energy and Climate Change spokesman said: “The government is proposing to reform the electricity market and give certainty to investors with the Energy Bill and revolutionise the energy efficiency of millions of homes and business across the UK through the Green Deal.

“This approach will deliver the best deal for Britain and for consumers, cutting energy waste and helping get us off the hook of relying on imported oil and gas by creating a greener, cleaner and ultimately cheaper mix of electricity sources right here in the UK.”

The IPPR report comes amid lobbying from environmental campaigners to cut subsidies to onshore wind farms further.

They argue their spread across the UK has been a blight on the countryside.

Mr Davey has already indicated the government wants to cut wind farm subsidies by about 10%.

Prime Minister David Cameron has said the growth of renewable energy is vital for the British economy.

He has promised to lead the “greenest government ever”.

 

Originally published on the BBC website

The UK has dropped down the Ernst & Young global clean energy table to be overtaken by Italy as analysts question the Government’s flip-flop support for renewable energy.

For the first time, the UK has dropped outside the top five nations on the global clean energy index following concern that Energy Ministers are shifting their focus toward gas as an alternative to renewables.

And to add to the gloom, investment in clean energy at the start of this year has dropped to its lowest levels since 2009 according to the latest Ernst & Young quarterly renewable energy Country Attractiveness Indices (CAI) report published today.

The report shows there is good reason for long term optimism in the global renewable energy sector as more mature technologies move ever closer to grid parity. However, the short to medium term sector outlook is generally downbeat as the Eurozone debt crisis and increased competition from Asian manufacturers continues to focus the minds of European policy setters.

The shale gas boom and political resistance to tax credit extensions also continue to pose significant challenges to the US market, the report finds.

The indices scores 40 countries across the world in respect of their national renewable energy markets, renewable energy infrastructure and the growth potential of individual technologies.

The ranking for the UK has dropped from 5th to 6th position, partly as a result of concerns around the UK’s commitment to renewables amid speculation that the Department for Energy and Climate Change (DECC) is considering natural gas to be a possible bridge fuel for the country.

There has also been a re-weighting in the index which takes into account the growing importance of solar within the global energy mix; this has had a negative impact on the UK which is traditionally a wind-heavy country given its strong resource and offshore potential.

The UK’s solar industry also received a fresh blow following DECC’s proposals for another round of Feed-in Tariffs (FIT) cuts in the coming months. However, the renewable energy sector as a whole, and offshore in particular, was boosted by plans to implement a significant spending programme to improve the country’s transmission infrastructure for renewable energy sources.

Ben Warren, Ernst & Young’s Energy and Environmental Finance Leader, explained: “There is significant concern across the green energy sector that the Government will shift its focus towards natural gas as an alternative to renewables. The Electricity Market Reform needs to deliver the right framework to stimulate investment across all forms of energy generation, including renewables.

He adds: “The recently published draft energy bill is a welcomed step in the right direction and signals clear progress, however it is important we clarify certain aspects of the new regime, particularly around the offtake arrangements for independent generators in order to avoid uncertainty for investors.”

To look at the impact on businesses, Ernst & Young commissioned a global survey of one hundred US$1b-plus companies operating within energy intensive sectors, identifies key issues faced at C-suite level. This revealed that 38% of respondents expect energy costs to rise by 15% or more in the next five years. They ranked energy efficiency, increased usage of renewable energy and growing energy self-generation are the themes driving corporate energy mix strategy discussions.

While reducing costs through energy efficiency measures is often the foremost objective of an energy strategy, a number of other subsidiary goals are also crucial, such as energy security, carbon reduction, and price stability; with regulatory compliance and reputational aspects also playing a part.

As the largest global corporations tackle the challenge of transforming to a low-carbon and resource-efficient economy a variety of technologies are being deployed. These include energy demand management (47%), building energy management systems (20%), energy-efficiency lighting (18%) and building automation (18%).

The survey also found that 41% of respondents generated some form of renewable energy with company-owned or controlled resources such as solar, wind, or bioenergy. However this practice is not yet widespread with only around one in ten reporting that clean company-owned energy accounts for more than 5% of their total energy production.

On the renewables contribution to energy generation, Warren commented: “While company-owned generation clean energy is low, 68% of respondents purchase some amount of electricity generated from renewable sources. However only 39% of all respondents would be willing to pay a premium for renewables, highlighting the importance of achieving grid parity and developing innovative project financing models.”

Warren added: “The main barriers to self-generation and renewables adoption are mainly related to risk and financialreturn. This suggests that adoption could come even faster with financing innovations and increasing cost-competitiveness of renewables. Only those businesses with a comprehensive and diverse energy strategy will be able to create and maintain competitive advantage in the resource-constrained world of today.”

 

(originally posted on Click Green.com)