Meeting with UK solar industry representatives this morning the Minister for Energy and Climate Greg Barker discussed his decision to cut the solar feed-in tariff by more than 50 percent, as well as defending the December 12 deadline. Addressing a room of 30 solar supporters, the Minister explained the reasons behind his recent announcement as well as outlining how the future policy for solar in the UK will be orchestrated.

As has been well documented, the recent feed-in tariff (FiT) announcements have created widespread controversy in the UK solar industry, with many arguing that the December 12 deadline will result in numerous job losses, company collapses and extensive profit loss. Two legal challenges have arisen since the proposals were published, prompting hope that the deadline could be pushed back.

However, Solar Power Portal understands while the Minister was keen to listen to the industry’s complaints on this matter at the meeting, he argued that he cannot legally change the proposals until the official consultation exercise is complete – despite this date being weeks after the deadline has passed.

Our source at this morning’s meeting said Barker insisted that there was nothing that he could do, even if he wanted to.

While the meeting focused largely on the December deadline, our source outlined that overall, the outcome was positive. Echoing his speech from the recent Solar Power UK conference in Birmingham, the Minister said that he wanted to sustain the solar industry within the current spending cap – yet he did outline that he was willing to look into other methods of support.

Barker discussed alternative support mechanisms, each of which could work along the feed-in tariff. Options included utilising money from the Renewable Obligation budget and increasing the export tariff rate. The Minister was keen to recognise that going forward, other incentives may be needed in order to carry the solar industry until the point when it reaches grid parity.

A pledge was also made to meet with the representatives at least once a month in order to strengthen the relationship between Government and the solar industry. A second group, which will include those from the PV manufacturing sector, will also be set up in order to understand more about the cost of solar energy and its impact on the industry. This decision mirrors the German approach to solar policy decision-making, which is something those working in the UK have been calling for since the FiT scheme began.

The Minister also plans to follow the German tariff degression model as part of the second consultation on reforms to the scheme. The Minister announced that he will be bringing the publication date for the second phase of the consultation forward to before Christmas in a bid to prevent concern that the UK solar market will be unsupported post April 2012.

Tweeting after the meeting this afternoon Barker said: “Constructive meeting with solar stakeholders. Budget under huge strain but genuinely keen to engage industry + consumers on proposals.”