The minister for energy and climate change, Greg Barker, has confirmed that the government will not implement a grace period for solar projects battling the flood in order to connect before 1 April.
Responding to a request from Lee Mason, of DNO Consulting, to introduce a grace period for flood-affected farms, Barker noted that he appreciated the difficult position that developers are currently in but, because the deadlines are enshrined in law, there was not enough time to amend the legislation before the Renewable Obligation (RO) deadline on 1 April 2014.
Barker writes: “I am afraid there is insufficient time to change the RO legislation to implement a grace period before the support rate reduces on 1 April. We estimate it would take at least six months to effect a change in the legislation because there would have to be a banding review, a consultation and the legislation would have to be scrutinised by both Houses of Parliament under the affirmative procedure.”
Barker also revealed that government had also considered whether it would be able to introduce a grace period for affected solar schemes retrospectively. However, a retrospective grace period could only be implemented through a banding review which presents a number of problems. Barker explained: “Grace periods are part of the rules that determine the level of RO support that technologies are eligible to receive, and as such, can only be implemented under the RO legislation following a banding review.
“It is possible for banding reviews to lead to increases in support levels for stations that have already been accredited, but because various statutory factors have to be considered in any such review, there could be no guarantee that in this case a banding review and consultation would lead to the introduction of a grace period to bring flood-affected solar farms that had accredited after 31 March at the 1.4 ROC band into the 1.6 ROC band. In addition, such a change could not be backdated to cover the electricity which was generated before the legislation implementing the grace period came into force.”
However, the minister has written to the District Network Operators to advise them “to do all they can to facilitate these new connections, while recognising the efforts to reconnect existing electricity costumers must continue to take priority”.
In the wake of the flooding, David Cameron announced a £10 million package designed to help businesses who have experienced “significant loss of trade” as a result of the floods, including a grace period for companies who had to file late accounts due to the impact of the flooding. During the Solar Trade Association’s Large Scale Solar in the UK: progress and future conference a number of developers expressed frustration that they are not being treated in the same manner as other UK businesses affected by the floods.