Caution urged following feed-in tariff parliamentary motions

The UK solar industry has been warned not to get its hopes up after motions were laid to annul the government’s feed-in tariff cuts.

Yesterday it was revealed that Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn and Liberal Democrat peer Baroness Featherstone laid motions in the House of Commons and House of Lords respectively, ‘praying’ for the statutory instrument containing the cuts to be annulled.

The motions were laid upon the two houses’ return from recess and followed the government’s last-minute consultation response, revealed on parliament’s last day before the Christmas recess, which set out a 67% reduction to the FiT to 4.39p/kWh.

But while both motions will be well received by the solar industry, it is understood neither will trigger a vote. As a result, the new regime still looks set to come into force when the praying period concludes on 8 February 2016.

It is also understood that Corbyn’s early day motion was almost entirely the work of the Labour Energy team comprising shadow secretary of state Lisa Nandy and other Labour MPs, including energy veteran Alan Whitehead, Barry Gardiner and Clive Lewis. The Labour Leader was listed as the primary sponsor in order to all but guarantee a debate in the House of Commons, as ordinarily all other EDMs are unsuccessful.

Parliamentary conventions dictate that any debate triggered by an early day motion must last for 90 minutes at least, and could last for longer depending on the number of signatures the motion attracts.

Baroness Featherstone’s non-fatal regret motion in the House of Lords is also considered likely to result in a debate, meaning that both Houses of Parliament will discuss the feed-in tariff cuts prior to them coming into force. Leonie Greene, head of external affairs at the Solar Trade Association, said this was a good sign considering the lack of parliamentary scrutiny given to the cuts so far.

“Concern over UK solar policy at the highest level is appropriate – analysts expect solar to dominate future world power supply, so it is self-defeating to scale back this vital industry as other countries forge ahead. Following the Paris Agreement, other large economies are enthusiastically ramping up solar deployment. 

“The parliamentary motions won't result in a better FiT scheme, but they will sustain pressure on the government. Solar is not a technology the UK can afford to lose its stake in. The government says they want to see a level playing field in energy so we will be pressing for firm action this year to remove clearly disadvantageous treatment of solar power in relation to tax treatment, CfDs and on networks. It would be good to see cross-party support for this,” she said.

Later this morning energy secretary Amber Rudd and energy minister Andrea Leadsom are both expected to participate in today’s energy and climate change oral questions session which starts at 9:30am, which will be the first time MPs have had the chance to quiz them over the new FiT regime.