The chairman of the Solar Trade Association Scotland has voiced fierce criticism over the government's recent proposals to cut the feed-in tariff for solar PV by almost 90% but has expressed his hope that Scotland's political support for solar could save the country's PV sector.
Reacting to the government's FiT plans, John Forster, chairman of STA Scotland called the new proposals "unnecessary, unjustifiable, unmanageable and ultimately destructive". However, Forster is hopeful that solar in Scotland can thrive.
Forster explained: "Earlier this year in March, we launched STA Scotland, due to the growing interest from industry and the Scottish Government. There are approximately 500 solar related jobs in Scotland, and with solar set to play a significant part in meeting the Scottish Government’s 2020, 100% renewable electricity target we had predicted that the Scottish solar industry would add a further 3,000 jobs over the next five years. Energy Minister Fergus Ewing has already highlighted that Scotland is at the forefront of the renewables industry and that solar needs to play a key role in meeting this target.
"This slashing of support in January 2016, set out in the FiT review, is completely unnecessary," continued Forster. "The potential damage to our industry is completely unjustifiable. As we saw in the recent consultations announced by the UK government, for the removal of pre-accreditation and early closure of the Renewable Obligation (RO) scheme, the FiT review wrongly attributes projected overspend within the Levy Control Framework (LCF) to the solar industry."
STA Scotland also notes that solar remains the most popular source of energy among the British public, with more than 80% of Brits indicating that they support the deployment of solar PV. In addition, the STA estimates that an extra £1.70 on energy bills between now and 2020 could deliver one million extra solar installs by 2020.
Forster explained: "The government’s stated justification for these destructive cuts is the desire to reduce the impact on household energy bills, whereas the true costs demonstrate that this is no reason for abandoning our solar industry."
In addition, Forster is warning that the government is doomed to repeat its previous mistakes when it cut FiT rates in half in 2011. He said: "The government has already seen the impact of sudden drastic cuts in 2011, and the results were unmanageable. The huge surge in demand that is the likely outcome of the FiT review, will deliver the worst possible scenario for solar installers and their customers. For an industry that has taken three years to rebuild itself from the previous cuts, there simply isn’t the capacity to deal with the inevitable demand. The proposals will lead to the cramming of installs into a diminishing window of time that includes a major holiday period and winter weather, putting installers at risk under time pressures to ensure customers don’t lose out on the higher tariff before January. "
Forster concluded: "The International Energy Agency (IEA) predicts that solar will generate over 50% of the world’s electricity by 2050. India and China alone have committed to the install of 100GW each in the next few years. And just as British solar companies, with the benefit of their homegrown expertise, have started to export their services in these rapidly expanding global marketplaces, their foundations are set to be eroded by poorly judged government policies."
Scotland's energy minister will address the Solar Trade Association's event in Edinburgh on 24 September.