Energy industry regulator Ofgem has yet to finalise plans on how it will implement the new feed-in tariff regime a month before it is due to come into place.
Changes announced by the Department of Energy and Climate Change last month include the addition of quarterly installation caps. As part of the plans, Ofgem is to monitor and publish regular updates on the number of installations made each quarter and facilitate a queuing system for any installation that is fitted outside of the cap.
The much-maligned queuing system is due to get its first test after next week as a government-enforced pause on new installations – designed to protect the £100 million funding pot allocated for the FiT – come into force on 15 January.
All installations accredited by MCS after that date are placed into a queue to be certified for FiT payments under the new regime on 8 February, however precise details as to how the system will be managed still need to be ironed out.
An Ofgem spokesperson confirmed to Solar Power Portal that the regulator is currently reviewing its existing processes which may be updated pending the results of a consultation, which is currently seeking stakeholder comment. Also included within this consultation is how frequently Ofgem will publish data on the capacity reached within each period, designed specifically to keep the industry up to speed with capacity limits.
Seb Berry, head of public affairs at Solarcentury and Solar Trade Association board member, said that a lack of finalised details was evidence of a “wholly unnecessary decision” to rush through the new FiT regime and the associated pause on installations.
“[It] raises a number of serious questions about process and the practicalities of the new capped scheme, including the crucial issue of whether the cap data will be provided transparently to the market and our customers in real time and how exactly Ofgem plans to administer the queuing system.
“These key commercial issues for the entire UK sector underline the hugely unhelpful nature of the government's tactics just before Christmas in using a 21 day Statutory Instrument to rush through the effective closure of the current scheme.
“Given yesterday's revelations in the Commons by the secretary of state that the cost of the capacity market subsidy for diesel generators alone will add "up to £10" on consumer bills, the argument that the four week feed-in tariff "pause" was necessary to protect "hard working families" from higher energy bills, really doesn't stand up to any serious scrutiny,” Berry said.
Ofgem is collecting feedback on the required processes and is seeking the solar industry’s responses, a deadline for which has been set of 14 January. More information on the proposals and how to respond can be found here.
Meanwhile Ofgem has moved to allay fears over the potential for fraudulent registrations being made under the new regime. Given the introduction of deployment caps DECC’s consultation on the subject raised concerns that unscrupulous installers could register installations before they are actually fitted in order to ensure they are included in a particular cap.
DECC noted the issue but pressed ahead nevertheless, claiming deployment caps to be the “most appropriate” way of controlling expenditure. But Ofgem said it remained confident of policing feed-in tariff applications.
“We have a dedicated Counter Fraud Team, who work to detect, prevent and deter fraud across the environmental or social programmes we administer on behalf of the government. This includes numerous controls which are built into the programmes, and reviewed when there are any policy changes, such as those being proposed under the feed-in tariff,” the spokesperson said.
Installers with concerns regarding potential fraud under the feed-in tariff regime are instructed to contact the counter fraud team on 0207 901 7373 or firstname.lastname@example.org.