Solar projects have been granted a further six months to complete and register under the feed-in tariff (FiT) scheme due to the long-lasting impacts of COVID-19.
Following a consultation – which ran from 19 June to 17 July – the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS) has made the decision to implement a second extension, having granted an initial six months earlier this year, which pushed back the deadline for projects with initial accreditation deadlines falling between 1 March and 30 September 2020.
For solar PV installations, the new deadline is now 31 March 2020. The majority of the projects affected are community solar, with delays projects have faced including supply chain disruption with materials stuck in transit, closure of buildings for installation, installers in isolation and certifiers unable to visit.
This led to some generators being unable to complete construction and commission on the projects and therefore submit their application for accreditation in time.
The news of the extention was welcomed by Chris Hewett, chief executive of the Solar Trade Association, stating that “this is a rational decision that will provide much needed certainty and reassurance to those whose projects have been delayed as a result of the coronavirus crisis".
A joint response to BEIS’ consultation from Community Energy England, Wales and Scotland said that whilst the majority of installations have been able to use the current extension to complete projects, a “significant remainder were still impacted and endangered”.
Impacts cited included difficulty in returning to normal construction speeds and dealing with a backlog of work, network companies being focused on essential work only and delays in councils being able to make decisions and support community energy projects due to staff being diverted onto other frontline essential work and committee meetings being suspended among other factors.
In particular, school installations were pointed to as projects that were struggling due to schools immersed in their own challenges caused by COVID-19. Community Energy England therefore suggested a full year’s extension to September 2021 in its response to give schools time to complete the installations in the Easter and summer holidays.
However, BEIS stated that it would not be doing this as school projects were initially working towards a March 2020 deadline rather than one that would allow them to install during the summer holidays.