After weeks of yet more uncertainty the fast-track consultation on feed-in tariffs is expected to begin tomorrow. The review, which will more or less determine the future of the UK’s solar industry, has been met with mixed feelings since its disclosure on February 7th.
Energy Minister Chris Huhne revealed at the beginning of last month that the Government would be instigating a review of the feed-in tariff, with a fast-track focus -which could potentially change the rates – for solar photovoltaics systems of 50kW or above. This announcement shook the country’s fledgling solar industry, which has since been fighting back against the decision to change the way the incentive works.
Government’s reason for the review is clear: it believes large-scale solar developers have begun to eat away at the incentive designed for small-scale, residential energy generators. The solar industry however, has responded to this claim with vigor, stating that not only have no large-scale solar parks actually begun to take advantage of the solar feed-in tariff, but they are also simply applying for an incentive offered to them, since the current FiT scheme actually supports systems up to 5MW in size.
Leone Greene at the Renewable Energy Association (REA) says that by focusing on homes and small businesses the Government could exclude schools, housing organizations and community groups. “Solar has incredible potential…we should increase our solar ambition in line with other EU economies,” she said.
The industry also charges the Department of Energy and Climate Change (DECC) with misunderstanding of the economics of solar power, claiming that it does not have the expertise for a valid analysis of the market. This point has been further highlighted in response to some of the Energy Minster’s recent comments.
Lower bands of the feed-in tariff system will be assessed in a second, so-called “comprehensive review,” the date of which is yet to be revealed. The consultation period for the review of subsidies for 50kW and above is to be pushed through by 17th May. The new tariff rates are expected to begin on August 1st. At present the FiT pays out 31p per kilowatt hour in the 10 to 100kW band, and 29p per kilowatt hour in the 100kW to 5MW band.
UKsolar industry players and green pressure groups are expected to turn up the heat on the Government as it prepares to examine the country’s feed-in tariff scheme this week, starting a battle which some say should never have been started.