Since the new proposed feed-in tariff rates were revealed on Monday one question has been asked more than any other: what does the December deadline really mean? In a bid to provide some much-needed clarity in this area, I’ve done a bit of digging to find out.

As the Department of Energy and Climate Change (DECC) announced, the new proposed tariffs would apply to all new solar PV installations with an eligibility date on or after December 12, 2011. These installations would receive the current tariff rates before moving to the lower tariffs on April 1, 2012.

Many of you will have immediately realised that the deadline date is actually 11 days before the so-called consultation period ends. This means that although DECC will consult on the proposed tariffs and date when they would be implemented, it is unlikely that any changes will be made to the December deadline – and I’m willing to bet that, based on previous experience, not one of you would be willing to take the risk anyway.

So, what do you have to do if you want to receive the higher rates for the full 25 years?

According to DECC, the eligibility date of a solar PV project is based on it being commissioned (that means in working order) and having its request for accreditation received by a FiT licensee (which means your energy provider) for schemes up to 50kW or Ofgem for systems larger than 50kW.

But what does that really mean?

After contacting DECC I am now able to tell you that it is not enough to commission a PV system before the deadline and then register for the FiT after the 12th. Under the proposal, before December 12 (i.e. by midnight on December 11) the PV system needs to be installed and the FiT licensee or Ofgem (for installations of 50kW or less and more than 50kW respectively) must have received the application for the FiT. In the case of installations with a total installed capacity of 50kW or less, the application must be accompanied by a valid MCS certificate for the installation. 

So, not only will you have to have completed your installation, you will have to prove you have applied for the feed-in tariff and have evidence to show that the application has been received – it is not enough to have simply sent the forms.

For maximum certainty, DECC suggests you consider using Royal Mail Special Delivery or a similar alternative from another delivery company which provides proof that the application has been received. That way there is no room for error.

While the December deadline imposed by DECC is far from ideal, hopefully, by using these guidelines you will be able to complete the projects in your current pipeline and receive the higher feed-in tariff for the promised 25 years.