Cameron urged to intervene personally and safeguard the solar industry

In the wake of the Government’s formal FiT consultation, which proposed a slash in the FiT rate of over 50%, the UK solar industry has felt a great sense of injustice, stemmed from a seemingly unnecessary fast-track review which has left companies with just a six-week timeframe to either push ahead or abandon planned projects.

In search of a coherent response, Jeremy Leggett, chairman of Solarcentury, has published an open letter to David Cameron, urging him to step in and reconsider what many believe to be the death knell for the UK solar industry.

Mr Leggett argues that the UK solar industry has done everything the PM has asked of it and is therefore completely undeserving of such radical policy change: “(The UK solar industry) has invested, innovated, researched, exported, manufactured, supported "Big Society" projects and created jobs.”

The sentiment is hard to argue with as recent figures suggest that there are over 4,000 solar companies operating in the UK, employing up to 25,000 people.

Mr Leggett also supports Friends of the Earth’s view that DECC’s decision is “unlawful” and that the situation was “totally avoidable”. Many in the industry recognised that the FiT rate was far too generous and had called for a sensible approach to be taken when setting the new rate in the hope of avoiding another fast-track review. Mr Leggett argues that “the cost of delaying the December deadline can be measured in pennies rather than pounds on average annual household energy bills.”

A response from the PM would act as a small step toward restoring confidence in an industry that has been shaken to its core by two fast-track reviews in less than six months.

Jeremy Leggert’s Solarcentury is one of several organisations that have voiced concerns at the recent downward revision to the UK’s FiT.

The full letter can be read below:

Request for urgent meeting to halt the imminent destruction of the UK solar PV industry

4 November 2011

The Right Honourable David Cameron MP

Prime Minister

10 Downing Street

London

SW1A 2AA

Dear Prime Minister

You will recall that five years ago you chose to host your first Shadow Environment team ‘meet the media’ event at Solarcentury.  I was very proud to welcome you to the "frontline" of Britain's then fledgling solar PV industry.  Throughout the Conservatives’ period in Opposition we worked tirelessly as a company to assist you in developing a coherent and indeed leading position on "green" issues including proposals for a feed-in tariff.  

In the early months of your premiership, again I was very proud to be able to accompany you to India and genuinely welcomed prospects for the "greenest Government ever." 18 months on after the election, this company has done everything asked of it by your Government.  We have invested, innovated, researched, exported, manufactured, supported "Big Society" projects and created jobs winning a Queens Award for Enterprise only last year.   But today, surveying the wreckage caused to my company by Monday's DECC announcement, I have to ask you Prime Minister, where did it all go wrong?

The immediate impact of DECCs unlawful decision on Monday for my own company and the industry is that bad news is hitting us from almost every quarter.

The absurdity of this totally avoidable situation was reinforced yesterday by publication of the Government's own Impact Assessment on the feed-in tariff changes.   Prime Minister, an entire industry is being destroyed inside 6 weeks for the sake of "saving households" a sum of money roughly equivalent to purchasing one copy of the Daily Mail per year.   The Impact Assessment published yesterday reveals that the cost of delaying the 12th December deadline to a date consistent with Energy Act procedures can be measured in pennies rather than pounds on average annual household energy bills.  That is the true context in which this industry is being told by your Ministers that "there is no alternative."

I am appealing to you therefore to intervene personally on this issue to safeguard the livelihoods of 25,000 solar staff and to reduce the number of bankruptcies that are set to engulf the industry as a direct result of this decision.  Please will you do so?  Please will you meet with me and other representatives of this industry as a matter of urgency to thrash out a sensible way forward?  I hope you will agree with me that this sector deserves no less.

Yours sincerely,

Jeremy Leggett

Chairman

Solarcentury