The Department of Energy and Climate Change (DECC) has confirmed plans to remove renewable obligation (RO) support for solar developments over 5MW from April 2015.
The department says that the recent growth in the large-scale solar sector, fuelled by RO support, has taken up more budget than the government has anticipated and that the cut was necessary to preserve budgets and control spending.
Seb Berry, head of public affairs, Solarcentury
Earlier this week, on the Conservative Party conference fringe, ministers were busy talking up the contribution from solar and promising “long-term certainty” for investors in all renewables. Today's announcements however, do little to undo the disruption and uncertainty of the last five months, providing at best a very marginal boost to roof-top solar to 2020 while confirming a premature end to the solar Renewables Obligation for large-scale projects.
It's baffling that the government continues to justify these decisions in “value for money” terms, when everyone knows that they are being driven by the coalition's preference for ring-fencing spend on the much more expensive option of off-shore wind, at a time when by contrast spending on the solar RO amounts to just over 1% of the total Levy Control Framework budget.
Alasdair Cameron, renewable energy campaigner, Friends of the Earth
This move will undermine large-scale solar while doing nothing to boost rooftop alternatives – bad news for jobs, the climate and people wanting to plug into clean power.
Solar could be cheaper than fossil fuels in just a few years, but it needs a little more help from Government to get it there. Failure to invest now will mean a huge missed opportunity for the UK economy.
The new CfDs will only benefit the existing energy establishment of big companies and developers. Instead of throwing up yet more barriers for small businesses and community groups, Ministers should be making it easier for everyone to reap the benefits of solar energy.
Dr Nina Skorupska, chief executive, REA
Coalition ministers have talked endlessly about cracking open the energy market and growing the renewable energy economy, but they haven’t put their money where their mouth is with this new CfD scheme.
Firstly, the allocation process is still too risky and complicated for most of the renewable energy independents and SMEs that are trying to break into the UK’s consolidated energy market, further entrenching the dominance of the vertically integrated utilities.
Secondly, in both the short term and the long term, ministers have failed to deliver value for money. In the short term, the cheaper, more established technologies have been given less than a quarter of the available budget in the first round, with the rest going to the less established technologies. In the longer term, these younger, less established technologies will struggle to achieve cost reductions without minima to guarantee their continued growth.
Ray Noble, solar PV specialist
Government has taken account of the respondents’ comments and have shown they are backing solar as set out in the Solar Strategy.
Paul Barwell, chief executive, Solar Trade Association
Why is the UK Government putting this industry’s incredible achievements on solar power at risk? To curtail its growth now is just perverse and unjustified on budgetary grounds – solar has only consumed around 1% of the Renewables Obligation budget.
This is not a good outcome for consumers either. Why remove support for solar power when it could be the first low carbon power source to become subsidy free by the end of this decade? British Solar needs a stable policy framework to retain its growth to drive down costs so consumers see a direct reduction in their future electricity bills.
Roy Bedlow, chief executive and co-founder, Low Carbon
The UK government has committed to a challenging climate change goal of an 80% reduction in greenhouse gas emissions by 2050. While this should be encouraging investment in and support of renewable energy, DECC’s changes to financial support for solar PV demonstrate a reluctance to provide the support large scale solar energy generation needs to quickly reach a point where it is competitive with other energy sources, and can become subsidy-free.
What we would like to see is greater consistency in policy definition in this area and a long term commitment to support renewable energy, which offers one of the best opportunities to move away from fossil fuels. This will ultimately allow for continued investment to flow into the renewable energy industry as a whole in the UK. We believe that a low-carbon economy will only be achieved by way of an energy market in which use of traditional fossil fuels is supplanted by renewable technologies. The government should therefore take all necessary measures to support this vision for the benefit of the UK economy as a whole.
Merlin Hyman, chief executive of Regen SW
Today's announcements surrounding support for renewables confirm we are now past ‘peak subsidy’ for renewable energy and that the available subsidy budget will be managed very closely by DECC. The release of further money from that budget, announced today, will increase confidence but developers will have to carefully consider whether sufficient subsidy will be available when bringing forward projects.
The majority of the subsidy budget is being focused on offshore wind. The UK has more offshore wind turbines than the rest of the world combined and DECC clearly wants to ensure there's a sufficient volume of projects for the sector to develop. However, there is not sufficient funding currently released for all of the projects currently coming through the planning system.
The budget for ‘Established’ renewables subsidies remains much lower. In many ways we should welcome this as a sign of the remarkable progress of renewable energy in cutting costs. But it is important that this process is not too rapid or it risks bringing the rapidly developing UK renewable energy sector to a halt.
The confirmation that the Renewables Obligation will be closed to solar projects over 5 MW from 1 April 2015 will not come as a surprise. However, if solar deployment is to be moved from fields to commercial roofs it will need much work to address the barriers.