SEUK: Barker threatens government action against ‘inappropriate’ PV development

Energy minister Greg Barker has launched a ‘roadmap’ towards publication of the UK’s first solar strategy, reaffirming his commitment towards a target of 20GW of PV by 2020 but threatening government action against insensitive development.

Speaking at Solar Energy UK in Birmingham today, Barker pledged to crack down on inappropriately sited solar developments, stating that he foresaw a growing role for large rooftop PV in achieving the UK’s targets rather than increasingly controversial open-field PV development.

The roadmap is not the final strategy, which Barker had previously promised to publish in the early summer. Barker told Solar Power Portal that the EU-China solar trade row, which reached its peak over the summer, had made it difficult to publish the strategy at that time.

Barker said the launch of the roadmap would mark the beginning of a six-month “intensive” dialogue with the UK solar industry, leading up to the publication of the full strategy next spring.

Acknowledging the growing public opposition to large-scale PV development on greenfield sites, Barker said he would “not allow a small number of developers ruin it for the rest of us”.

“PV enjoys the most public support of any form of renewable energy. I want to keep it that way and the best way to do so is to work with the grain, rather than against the grain, of local feeling."

He threatened to “intervene” if the industry did not act responsibly, but was vague on what this meant, adding only that he would “take action” if large-scale developers were not seen to be working with local communities.

A spokesman for the Department for Energy and Climate Change said no formal decision had been taken on how the government would act.

“It’s up to the industry to act responsibly in this area,” he said. “If it doesn’t, in the long term DECC may be forced to take action.”

Barker said large-scale rooftop schemes would have a growing role in meeting the UK’s 2020 solar target, claiming PV would need to be developed on just 14% of the UK’s commercial rooftops in order to meet the 2020 target.

There has been some concern within the industry that the current feed-in tariff rate available for commercial-scale rooftop arrays has been inadequate in stimulating this segment of the market.

Pressed on this, Barker said the government was looking at “breaking down the regulatory barriers” holding back activity in this area of the market. But he would not be drawn on whether the forthcoming roadmap would address industry claims the incentives for commercial rooftops are inadequate.