Greg Barker slams ‘pretty poor’ DECC evidence base

Greg Barker, the former energy secretary and now BPVA president, has criticised the evidence base used to compile the current feed-in tariff proposals and pleaded with Amber Rudd to listen to the industry’s submissions.

Barker was interviewed on BBC Radio Four this weekend and discussed the proposals – an 87% cut to the feed-in tariff which would come into force on 1 January – against the backdrop of two prominent installers entering administration as a result.

He warned that if the proposals were accepted in their current form, the impact on the industry would be “catastrophic”, however Barker reserved particular criticism for the evidence base upon which the proposals have been formulated.

“The secretary of state has made clear that the proposals on the table are just draft proposals and I think most people agree that the evidence base that went into this first draft of tariffs has been pretty poor,” he said.

DECC appointed an independent body to calculate appropriate feed-in tariffs to fulfil certain guidelines, revealed during last week’s feed-in tariff workshop to include an estimated return of no more than 4% and to prioritise well-sited locations with high load factors. The work was conducted by strategic consultancy firm Parsons Brinckerhoff.

The proposals and the process has been repeatedly criticised since their unveiling on 27 August, most notably for a lack of consideration given to expected job losses. DECC said within its impact assessment that an accurate figure could not be reached due to a lack of information.

Responding to Barker’s comments, a DECC spokesperson told Solar Power Portal: “The proposed new tariff is based on the best available independent evidence that will allow us to get the best return for bill payers’ money rather than putting solar panels where they simply aren’t generating enough, or will forever rely on heavy subsidies to make them pay.”

Barker also pressed the severity of the proposals during the interview, stating his opinion that they would “kill the industry” in the UK and “set it back several years, quite unnecessarily”.

However he also said he was certain that the proposals would change as more evidence is provided from the industry. “The question is whether [the changes] will be bold enough. I hope [Amber Rudd] does something pretty creative rather than just march down this current proposal, which would be pretty disastrous,” Barker added.

The deadline for submissions to the consultation is next Friday (23 October) and DECC has continued to urge the industry to submit as much evidence as possible. The department expects to take several weeks sorting through the submissions and intends to issue a response by late November or early December.

Any prospective changes to the feed-in tariff would need to be set out in the feed-in tariff order, which would require an additional 40-day process before changes can come into effect. This would mean the latest possible date for DECC to do so and still meet its 1 January 2016 target date would be 22 November.