Forming a positive response to the debate surrounding the fast-track feed-in tariff review, Lords from all sides of the House yesterday came out in unanimous support for solar. Going along with the recommendations of the Solar Trade Association, the Lords agreed that solar had been treated unfairly, and that policy decisions had been made without due consideration.

Lords who spoke out during the debate expressed frustration that key questions surrounding solar had not been answered by Lord Marland, who spoke for the Government.

Ray Noble, PV adviser to the STA said, “Solar did not even feature in the top ten technologies in the Renewables Roadmap launched this week.  Yet it will be a major contributor to 2020 electricity in key EU countries.  Parliamentary time spent discussing solar energy is precious, and the STA believes every opportunity should be taken to raise awareness and show it is a serious mistake to marginalise this technology.”

Lord Whitty, former Chair of Consumer Focus and long-term fuel poverty campaigner, said all were concerned about energy bills, but derailing solar was not the answer. He pointed out that the tariffs could have been reduced in the manner recommended by the STA – i.e. a reduction of 25-30% across all sizes of projects – thus ensuring the cost of the scheme would be reduced, while the larger, more cost-effective schemes were treated fairly.

“We were talking about single-site operators; we were talking about farmers; we were talking about all-district heating schemes; we were talking about individual large buildings, schools, university campuses, community projects and small industrial estates,” he said.

“Those were exactly the sites on both the public and community side and the commercial side which we were attempting to encourage adoption of solar energy by extending the limit to 5MW. The idea that it has been a distortion that the benefit has gone to farmers and industrial operators is quite wrong.”

Conservative Peer Lord Lucas also expressed concern that the solar industry had been treated unfairly.

“Government said that adjustments would be made to the feed-in tariff, ‘as evidence on actual deployment, costs and performance emerges … with the first review due to take place in 2013,’ subject to degression in the level of feed-in tariff from 31 March 2012. The meaning of that seems plain to me: anything that you get under way before 1 April 2012 will be at the stated tariff. Fine, that was said by a previous Government, but new Governments cannot just tear up what has been said before, which is what we appear to be doing,” he said.

Baroness Smith pointed out, “Ernst & Young has set out the effects [in its recent report], stating that the whole investor market has been ripped up by the feed-in tariff review.”

Lib Dem Lord Teverson also supported the motion and asked for solar to be given sufficient report under the Renewables Obligation. 

The issue will now go through the Commons.