The UK government’s review of support for large-scale solar PV has been “calm and measured”, according to the minister of climate change, Greg Barker.
Speaking at a renewable infrastructure investor conference, Barker said: “Our [solar farm] proposals, which would take effect next year, focus our incentives and further clarify our intent. But I want to reassure you that we’ve done so in a calm and measured way.”
Barker continued: “We have provided a year of notice. Changes would only come into law from April next year. Our proposals also include grace periods to protect significant investments.”
One major criticism that the solar industry has levelled at the government in the wake of its shock announcement is the lack of prior notice and the short window allowed for the industry to adapt.
Despite Barker’s claim that the industry has a year’s notice, in reality solar farm developers will need to prepare bids for October in order to be eligible for the first tranche of CfD allocations in April 2015.
Commenting on the tight timeframes involved, Neas Energy’s Lars Weber explained: “Developers and debt financers now have to understand the CfD system within the next four to five months, whereas in the old system they actually had the next two years to understand CfDs. By only giving four months for a time which everyone anticipated as two years is ridiculous.”
Speaking to Solar Power Portal, Leonie Greene, head of external affairs at the Solar Trade Association noted that the grace periods that Barker lauded as providing certainty were deeply flawed. She said: “There is particular urgent anxiety about the grace periods proposed which are grossly inadequate. They simply are not applicable to the great majority of solar projects.”
During his speech, Barker noted that the British public are extremely supportive of switching to renewable technologies. He said: “Our own polling shows overall renewable support at 77%. With support for technologies such as solar PV even higher at 85%.”
The minister has continually warned that solar farms are undermining public support for solar technology in the UK, despite providing no polling data to back up his claim.
On the contrary, Greene believes that solar farms are very popular amongst the British public: “I think it’s a great shame that policy is being set on, at times warranted, negative press about poor schemes – that really isn’t the basis for setting policy. DECC’s own opinion tracker shows record levels of public support for solar that is rising. If you were starting to see public opinion being dented by the growth of solar farms, DECC’s data would reflect that – it simply doesn’t.”
In the video below industry leaders reject government’s argument that the decision was necessary to preserve the budget and criticise the manner in which the news was delivered.