Former energy minister, Greg Barker has urged the solar industry to focus on achievable lobbying wins which operate within the government’s tight financial constraints.

Addressing attendees at the Solar Trade Association’s ‘Does the new government mean business for solar?’ event on Monday, Barker said that UK solar industry was facing a number of different challenges but that the new Conservative majority government was not one of them.

Questioning whether the new government was on solar’s side, Barker said that newly-appointed Energy and Climate Change Minister, Amber Rudd was “a paid-up supporter” of solar technology.

Barker continued: “There are also other reasons to be positive about solar in terms of political support it enjoys. It’s not just that we have Amber Rudd, who is a firm believer in climate change, firm believer in the role of clean energy, firm believer in the low-carbon economy, firm believer in promoting green growth, and keen to play her part in that growth both nationally and internationally.

“Over in DCLG – I know that you were absolutely gutted that Eric Pickles has gone – we now have Greg Clark who I worked closely with in opposition drawing up the nascent Tory green manifesto. I know that, not only is his heart in the right place, he is also a formidable brain. I’d expect much more progress in the next five years than we necessarily saw in the last five years.

“The final appointment, which got less attention but is no less critical, is the No.10 policy unit – the living, beating heart of David Cameron’s policy agenda – which is now more his own then he ever had the opportunity to do under the Coalition. The head of the policy unit, Camilla Cavendish from the Times, is absolutely passionate about the green economy, about fighting climate change; totally sees the nature of the opportunity in being a leader in the green transition and is a real ally of clean energy. Taken together with the further enhancement of the role of Oliver Letwin, a long-term ally of this agenda, I think you see a Prime Minister who is unleashing his inner Ca-maroon, who in his legacy years will really drive an agenda.”

However, Barker made it clear that the sector must nurture the political support it currently enjoys by prominent Tories by recognising the constraints they operate under and adhering to them. Barker said: “It’s going to get really challenging. Why? Because of the over deployment of renewables across the board. The record of the Coalition for deploying renewables has meant that the deployment of clean energy was much quicker than DECC anticipated when it drew up the deployment forecast in 2012 – meaning that far more of the LCF pot has been drawn upon than was anticipated. We burnt through – collectively – that money much quicker and it’s going to be really tough.”

Barker suggested that the industry response should be to look to propose solutions that recognise this fact, and operate within the constraints – “not to try and push the envelope or just lobby for extra favours”. He continued: “You will have to work with this government which wants to see a successful rise of the solar sector but you need to recognise that there will be financial constraints that the government is working under.

“There will be no additions to the LCF – yes, Amber will have some headroom. Yes, there will be some choices that have to be made within that mix but don’t go lobbying for unrealistic demands: for more subsidy, for more consumer funding and higher bills for energy users; work with the government to form a solution within a sensible constraint of the fiscal framework and work harder and harder to drive down your own costs.”

The Solar Trade Association recently published a costed plan to raise the government’s ambition for solar deployment. The association argues that, if given a fairer share of the LCF budget, the technology could double the amount of electricity it is predicted to generate from 2020 onwards.