Taking to the stand at the Royal Institute for Chartered Surveyors (RICS), the UK’s Climate Change Minister, Greg Barker, delivered the speech, ‘Energising the Big Society – The Role of Local Energy’ yesterday to a room full of eagerly listening industry experts.

Jumping on to the back of the Minister’s recent comments – threatening the future of large-scale solar parks and possibly cutting the renewable feed-in tariff (FiT) – the industry was sitting nervously in wait for some answers. Barker’s speech was anticipated to respond to this industry nervousness, and there were mixed emotions at the end of the day.

The Minister began by affirming what the Department of Energy and Climate Change (DECC) has done so far under the Coalition Government, including providing funding for carbon capture storage, forming the world’s first Green Investment Bank and securing the immediate future for FiTs in the recent Spending Review.

It was made abundantly clear that the DECC continues to support renewable energy generation, aiming to make the sector a norm rather than an exception. “We want to bring ambition to the sector,” explained Barker.

As the speech continued, it soon became apparent that the point is not whether the DECC will support renewable energy generation with subsidization, but which type it will support. Sadly, the news was not good for the large-scale project developers.

The initial pointers were fairly mild, as the Minister claimed that, “We want microgeneration technology to break down the barriers, with consumers becoming active participants in the green energy sector,” so that, “We can literally bring power to the people – to communities and to local businesses.”

However, these placid remarks were soon replaced with some rather obvious statements:

“The coalition is committed to the roll-out of the widest possible range of domestic community-scale renewables,” explained Barker.

“However, there is one problem. The fact is we inherited a system from the previous government that simply failed to anticipate the potential for industrial-scale, stand-alone greenfield solar. And while we will certainly not act retrospectively, large greenfield-based solar parks should not be allowed to extort the funding available for domestic solar technology.

“We want to see an ambitious roll-out of solar panels on Britain’s roofs, but not all over our countryside, and I will not allow the hard-earned funding available to be scooped up by industrial-scale PV farms at the expense of domestic or small-scale PV.”

The message here is clear: the DECC does not want to support large-scale solar.

Barker justified his comments by explaining:

“Economies of green field solar are clearly very different from rooftop installations but that is not reflected in the scheme – this is because the last administration failed to listen properly to the industry. At the moment there is no call for alarm. However, if the current growth begins to get out of hand, I will act.”

This is worrying. But there is a light at the end of the tunnel.

As we reported on Monday, the industry met yesterday (Tuesday November 23) to discuss the plan of action against the Government’s decision to stop subsidizing large-scale parks. The main consensus from this meeting was that the best plan of attack is defense, and that the industry should come to Barker with solutions rather than complaints.

Towards the end of his speech, Barker said that he will be listening very carefully to the industry roundtable today in a bid to learn from the previous Government’s mistake of calling the shots blindfolded.

Based on the tone of Barker’s speech, it looks like the industry has its work cut out, but here’s hoping that a reasonable, unified decision will be made.


The closed door industry meeting, which took place this morning (Wednesday 24th November) revealed only that the DECC would do its best to suit all of the needs of the renewable energy industry in the UK, but that it had no funding left to add to the pot. Industry stakeholders, including the Solar Power Group, represented by the REA, were reassured that the FiT would be left alone for the foreseeable future. However, the coming weeks will truly tell if the Minister really listened to what the industry needs in order to move forward.